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Flash Fiction Friday: Baby Ruth Wasn’t the Only Fat Person to go Through the Floor

by Dustin Reade

A man walks into a cemetery holding an electric blanket. The cord dangles behind him, hitching and bumping in the wet grass. He approaches a row of old stones, nods his head, and lays the blanket over the selected plots. Carefully, he lies down in the center and begins rolling himself up in it, tucking the fraying corners between his knees and armpits. He lifts both legs as one and folds the bottom of the roll beneath his feet, then repeats the motion with his head so he is wrapped tight and warm, like a cocoon. What emerges weeks later is fat and horrible. A white, shapeless maggot with two tiny, thin arms ending in truncated stumps. Where there was once a face, there are now three deep, black holes gaping out at the world as if desperate for any vision or taste at all. The inside of the blanket is stained a murky brown, with bits of rotted flesh clinging to the fabric that sway and flap obscenely as the bloated creature makes its way slowly out of the cemetery. Here and there, it bumps into the headstones, knocking a few over. It uproots flowers from their vases. It leaves a slug-trail of slime in its wake, coating the already wet grass with the rainbow sheen of spilt motor oil.

***********************

Baby Ruth Pontico died in December 1941. She weighed 815 pounds and was married to a man who weighed only 130 pounds. The weight of her husband is not important. Baby’s mother was a fat lady for Ringling Circus, herself weighing in at 600 pounds. On a visit to her sister’s home, Baby Ruth fell through the floor and had to be lifted out with a crane. She died on an operating table while undergoing an operation to remove a fatty tumor in her thigh. She began vomiting and, due to her weight, could not roll over and strangled to death.

*********************

Days later, the creature lumbers through the double glass doors of a Wendy’s. The patrons barely look up from their burgers and fries, lost in the microscopic swelling of their bodies. The creature makes its way up to the register, pointing one of its thin arm stumps towards the picture menu behind the cashier’s head.

“I’ll have a number two, please,” It says in a squeaky voice like air being forced from the pinched end of a balloon knot.

The cashier presses a few buttons on the register and hands the creature a small plastic tray. The creature leans over the counter and vomits a handful of quarters from the holes in its face. The cashier scoops them across the counter into the register, his fingers sticky where they make contact with the coins.

“That’ll be ready in a few minutes,” The cashier says. He wipes his fingers on his red work-shirt, leaving a series of greasy streaks across his chest.

“Thank you,” the creature says.

Slowly, it moves to the far end of the counter, sliding the tray along as it moves. It waits. The tune of life is swallowing and belches. Cars pull up to the drive thru and order bowls of chili, large sodas, chicken sandwiches, and so on. Their voices can be heard, warped and distorted, throughout the restaurant as the creature waits.

When the food arrives, the creature thanks the cashier and makes its way over to a dirty table by the window. In a single, clumsy motion it slams its face into the food without bothering to unwrap it first. There is the sound of a vacuum running, with the clacking of pennies audible just beneath.

The food is gone in a matter of seconds, and the creature looks around at the other patrons, eyeballing their food with hunger scratched across its black eyeholes. Letting out a long, ear-piercing shriek, the creature forcibly vomits thousands of quarters. They launch from the holes in its face like bullets, slashing through obese women as they eat dripping burgers, digging into the soft organs of small children playing with cheap plastic toys, and lodging themselves into walls and shattering windows. The cashier falls to the floor with seventy-five cents digging trenches into his brain.

As the last body falls, the creature makes its way slowly from table to table, eating the leftovers. The pores of its body enlarge and begin soaking up the blood pooling on the tabletops. Its body bloats and swells, filling the restaurant with its girth as it eats the false-Formica tables, the hard vinyl seats, and finally even the corpses themselves before drinking the fat in the deep fryer and leaving the gutted Wendy’s to collapse from the hollowed emptiness it leaves behind.

*********************

A brief list of creatures that return home: Sea Turtles, Salmon, Arctic terns, Grey Whales, Caribou, and so on…

*********************
The creature makes its way over the plots, bumping into a few headstones and knocking them over as it lumbers slowly towards the familiar row of stones. The blanket lies like a waiting partner on the grass. A few insects have picked away at the mildewed fabric, but it is more or less wholly intact, missing only some non-noticeable fragments of stain. With a practiced ease, the creature rolls itself up in the blanket, lifting its stumpy backside into the air and tucking the rolled up blanket-bottom beneath it, then repeating the motion with its quail-egg head. There is a deep sigh, and the sound of air escaping balloon knot, and then the earth itself gives way, and the creature falls—cocoon and all—into the rotted graves beneath, crushing the dusty skeletons in their tattered burial shrouds. It writhes for a few quiet moments, quarters dripping from its eyes like tears, filling the blanket with a grave robber’s wildest dreams. The powdered bodies underneath the thing still wondering what it might next become.

****
Dustin Reade lives in a trailer behind a BBQ restaurant in Port Angeles, Washington. His book Grambo was published as part of the 2013-14 New Bizarro Author Series. He is also the head editor of the online bizarro fiction magazine, The Mustache Factor. He once won one of those “Eat-A-Giant-Steak-And-Win-A-T-Shirt” things in Hollywood, California.


New Bizarro Author Review #28: Grambo by Dustin Reade

by J. W. Wargo

Id Says:
EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhh…! What’s that, sonny? Martha’s like most any other old fuck. She likes church, shopping malls, and drives out into the country with her grandchildren. She’s kind and generous and all that other shit that make old grannies your favorite kind of cheek-pinching person. One can always find her at her grandson’s basketball games, rooting for the home team fuzzy shapes on the court her eyes sometimes have trouble seeing.

Martha doesn’t realize her grandson’s school is run by the most nefarious bastards to ever grade a term paper. The teachers are nothing but gangbangers with diplomas, and the principle is an outright pedophile, sticking his dick into anything that cheers with pom-poms.

When the grandson fucks up during a big game and loses it for the school, the faculty take matters into their own hands. Martha gets a call from the grandson and hightails it over to the family home just in time to watch them murdered and set on fire. The dickheads beat the shit out of granny, too, and leave her for dead.

But granny didn’t die. The old crank is still as rascally as ever and she wants revenge!

Ego Says:
Populating Martha’s Pacific Northwest surroundings is a supporting cast I placed into two categories, either opposing or aiding her. There are no middle ground characters here, everyone has a stake in grandma’s quest for vengeance.

On the opposing team, I really like the all-encompassing evil that is the school principle, Mr. Mayonnaise. There is not a single thread of decency in the man. He is the uber-douche I just wanted to die a thousand deaths. His henchpeople, the teachers under him, are a motley crew to say the least. Mr. Fust is frustrated and angry, but essentially all bark and no bite. Ms. Webber has more brains about her, and seems more chilling with her ability to torture innocents indifferently.

Rooting for Martha are the mascots. Yes, those mascots. The ones dancing around in ill-fitted suits making total asses of themselves while supposedly boosting team pride, except these mascots aren’t made, rather they are born. I think they’re my favorite characters in the book, because they’re such a fun take on a common role. They aren’t people in suits, they’re actually living creatures. When Musty pulls his horse head off to reveal a balding man head underneath, the skin tears off from his bleeding neck, because the horse is the real him and the human head is to his body what our skulls are to ours. Don’t worry, his head will grow back.

Super-Ego Says:
If it were not for all the gratuitous violence and sex, this could almost be a children’s story. Not only is there something wholesome and childlike about our grandmother’s journey, but the way Mr. Reade approaches the story is rather innocent like.

Not to say there are not touches of the absurd that would go over a child’s head, such as a chapter calling to mind a certain greaser play or one that reads like your favorite action movie montage scene (which this part of the reviewer’s brain recommends reading to some classic power metal). The comedy bits really helps break up the action bits, and when the two combine at times throughout the book you will find yourself excited and laughing simultaneously. A most enjoyable experience.

By keeping the middle section clear and steadfast, the author is able to really flesh out the meatiest parts of the book, that of the first act’s truly horrific scenes of Martha’s world brought to the edge of oblivion and the third act’s extremely satisfying battle finale. All of this is pulled off in a read that is less time than watching the original Rambo trilogy. Good show.

The delicate handling of the carnage, the absurdness, and the sweetness is no easy task. This book maintains all three without ever going overboard in any one direction. A difficult feat, and one so well pulled off that I am eager to see what comes next from this author’s pen.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Enjoy the review? Pick up a copy of the book at Amazon!

J.W. Wargo is a writer and author of his own NBAS book, Avoiding Mortimer, which sparked some controversy when the Make-A-Wish foundation allowed a dying boy to watch Marilyn Manson shove it up his own ass. You can also read about all the crazy shit he gets into while hitchhiking the world over at Imperial Youth Review.


Now Available: The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction (Issue Seven)

issue7The premier magazine of the bizarro genre.

Issue seven features the novella “Noah’s Arkopolis” by David W Barbee short fiction by David Agranoff, Molly Tanzer, Andrew Wayne Adams, Shane McKenzie and Dustin Reade, comics by Andrew Goldfarb and SCAR, articles by Constance Ann Fitzgerald, Carlton Mellick III, Kirsten Alene Pierce, Garrett Cook and Bradley Sands, a spotlight on author Jordan Krall, reviews, and more!

Click HERE to order The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction (Issue Seven)!


Flash Fiction Friday: Our Brautigans

by Dustin Reade

In a way we are all Richard Brautigan. We are happy that we have a mustache, and we stroke it sometimes by the pond. In the water we see a few fish. They are trout. We like to stroke our mustache when we look at the trout in the pond.

When we put on our hat and walk around town, we like it when people ask, “My! Where did you get that lovely hat?”

“The Hat Store,” we say.

“Well I shall have to go there someday and get one just like it,” they say.

We stroke our mustache and go home and just sit there for a while being Richard Brautigan. We think about the fish down in the pond and wait for 1984, when our suicide will be done in watermelon sugar.

It rains for a few hours while we are in bed. After a moment the rain stops. The woman in our bed asks, “What’s that sound?”

“The rain,” we say.

When the sun comes up we go into the den. The whole room is wood and we like the smell of the wood and the rain outside. We stroke our mustache and let the smell remember another time for us. Our memory is not so great anymore but the wood and the rain take us back to 1942 when we first learned about trout fishing from our step-father. We watch as he ties flies and takes us to the pond where we pluck trout from the water and put them in a basket to eat later. We are excited to taste the trout at home. That old house with the muddy walkway and the muddy roads and the mailbox full of welfare checks.

We want to stay in the memory longer but the sun dries up the rain. Then the door swings open and Death is standing there holding a shotgun.

It is 1984 and it is time to go and stop being Richard Brautigan for a while.

__________

Dustin Reade lives within walking distance of a Wal-Mart and a Costco. His writings can be found in various anthologies, and read online at The New Flesh, Three-Minute Plastic, and Bizarro Central. His is also the Head-Editor at The Mustache Factor, an online magazine of unusual fiction. He can feel it when you Google him.


Free Fiction Roundup!

The following is a list of free weird/bizarro fiction that has been made available in the last week:

Give and Take by Caris O’Malley

Weirdness from the mind that brought you THE EGG SAID NOTHING. Published by Unicorn Knife Fight.

The Expansion Peach by S. T. Cartledge

Great bizarro tale told in less than 1,000 words. Published by The New Flesh.

Tiny Rainbows by Dustin Reade

Strange little time travel story. Also found on The New Flesh.

The First Assembly of God by B. Morris Allen

Published by Weirdyear.

 


Flash Fiction Friday: No One at The End of The World by Dustin Reade

I saw the homeless man on the other side of the street as I was waiting for the light to change. He was sitting cross-legged in front of the pharmacy.

The light changed.

I crossed the street and approached him on the curb. He had two sliding glass doors in the center of his forehead. A dim light poured through the doors as he looked up at me, meeting my eyes.

“What’s with your head?” I asked stupidly.

“I have an open mind,” he said. “Open from six a.m. to nine p.m. most weekdays, closed all major holidays.”

I nodded. The homeless man held out his hand. I dug in my pockets for a quarter and tossed it to him. As he caught it, something strange happened and I felt my stomach lurch.

Suddenly his dirty frame engulfed my field of vision. I felt my arms and legs shrivel up into miniature arms and legs. I was shrinking.

The homeless man pulled a handful of peanuts from his coat pocket and began chewing them noisily. He towered over me a like a god. A rat the size of a washing machine began shuffling towards me, balancing along the high wall of the gutter.

I scrambled up the frayed ends of the homeless man’s corduroy pant leg.

“Help me!” I screamed. “Help! Save me!”

He picked me up just as the rat leapt in for the kill. His palm was vaguely grey, creased with dirt and grime. I saw filthy yellow half-moons on the reverse sides of his fingernails.

“I have an open mind,” he said again, setting me on a ledge before the two glass doors on his forehead. “Open right now, just for you.”

The doors opened into a vast grocery store. Only instead of food on the shelves, there were people.

Thousands of people, naked, dangling from hooks, folded up on shelves, packaged together like hotdogs. I raced through the store. Down every aisle it was the same. Black people, White people, even Red and Purple people. They all hung silently from their display shelves, watching me as I ran from one aisle to the next. A few shouted pitches at me as I passed, enticing me to buy them. “I do windows!” one said. “Me too,” another cried.  “And I won’t leave any unsightly stains on the sofa!”

“Sorry,” I shouted, passing the multi-colored menagerie as quickly as my legs would carry me. “No time!”

I didn’t know what it was I was running from, or towards, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of intense urgency. Like I was already very late for something, and I had forgotten what it was.

I came to a set of grey double-doors beside a deli full of sleeping children. I pushed my way through and entered into a poorly lit hallway. The walls were lined with bodies, piled high, some reaching as far as the ceiling.

Checking the bodies, I found they were not dead, but sleeping.

I followed the hallway until I came to a single, white door labeled, ‘Employee Lounge’. I went inside. The smell of smoke hung heavy in the air, and a partially eaten sandwich waited on a plate. Other than the sandwich, I was alone.

I sat down at a table and wondered aloud: “What is going on around here?”

“You are in the head of a homeless man,” someone said. “And you are waiting for the light to change.”

“Who said that?” I leapt to my feet, holding a plastic knife defensively before me. I tool a wild stab at the air…

“No One,” they said, taking a seat beside me. “Sit down and I will explain.”

I sat.

No One said: “At the End of the World, there is a row of multi-colored people. They are all dressed alike in white turtlenecks and khaki pants. There are two white people. They make love very quietly in the nighttime. They never make any noise.

“There are Red People, too. Red People with dark red teeth and bright red hair. They are afraid of the sun. It makes their freckles melt off their faces. The freckles are angry. It is said that they bite. The Red People do not understand any language, but they like to watch the White People make love very quietly in the nighttime.

“Four Purple People dangle from an aisle in the Grocery Store. They do not move. They have no limbs and are constructed of solid bone. The Yellow People use them as coffee tables, putting coasters on their backs while they smoke cigarettes and laugh at the White People as they make love very quietly in the nighttime. The Red People are Purple People Eaters.

“I am one of the very lucky ones. I have no color. People know I am there when they cannot see me. They talk to me when they are alone. They tell me about their day. That is how I learned of colors, and that is how I have come to know so much about the End of the World.”

The voice faded away and I exited the Employee Lounge. The smell of smoke died slowly behind me as I passed the stacks of sleeping bodies. Some black, some red, some yellow, some white. I pushed through the heavy grey doors by the deli and made my way to the glass doors at the front of the store.

I saw the city, and the telephone poles, and the Homeless Man’s legs.

Taking a deep breath, I leapt from the doors and landed in his lap. He smiled gently at me and I returned to my original size.

I walked home in the rain, no longer the same color.

__________

Dustin Reade is a funeral director-in-training. He lives in Port Angeles, Washington with his three-year-old daughter, Percephone, and their rat, Michael Jackson. He has been published in several anthologies, as well as a handful of magazines. He likes the rain and gloom of the Pacific Northwest, and will not be moving anytime soon.