Short Story News!

I’m happyDark Doings-1 to announce publication of the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired book, “Dark Doings at Miskatonic U.,” featuring my short story “Elsaus App.”

The story, edited by the hard-working author M. Christian, offers original stories by Lovecraft himself, as well as a handful of new stories by various authors including Ralph Greco, Christian, Lukas Scott, Jason Rubis, and myself.

Elsaus App features a young man who has found a way to recharge the batteries on cell phones and other devices by way of an app that sucks the remaining life force from dead animals. Only something unexpected comes as a result of his creation…

Look for “Dark Doings at Miskatonic U: 12 Chilling New and Classic Tales of that Haunted University’s Ill-fated Students and Faculty” for your Amazon Kindle here!

ManQuail Part Thirty-Three: Best Wishes From Charlie

Doug remembers a painful day.

How dare he? How dare he!

To be honest I wasn’t sure if I yelled it in my head as a question or more generally as an exclamation of fury. I don’t think it really even formed a full sentence, but those words best describe the agony his sentence evoked in my fragile psyche. After reading that he saw my son in heaven (heaven!), I became a quivering mass of spider arms and ugliness. I couldn’t move.

Sensing my unease, ManQuail tried to offer a few words of encouragement, but it came out wrong. “F@cker sh#th@#d c*ck.”

He returned to the keyboard to type instead. As he did so I saw my son in my head. Throughout the turn of events that led to my transformation into Mantula, I’d thought of him, heard him in my head, but I was forced to think of other things. I had to find a cure for this affliction, I met the beautiful Diana Sturgis, and even got revenge on Kip Mooney. There were so many things.


Fire destroys all.

But now I saw only the long yellow-orange school bus as it pulled away. Off into the distance it drove, just like it did the day before and the day before that. Only this time it never came back. It never came back with my seven-year-old boy. It wasn’t just Charlie though. None of the kids came back. But I didn’t care about those others kids. I didn’t know them. Charlie didn’t really know them either. We’d only moved to Cottonwood from Flagstaff after his mom succumbed to cancer. And that was bad. That was so bad.

But this was worse.

No one knew how to deal with it. Not the school principal, not the news media, not even the shrink. How do you heal when a bus goes up in flames, when everyone inside is burned alive? How does a father, the only person Charlie had in the world, the only person he trusted to always be there to protect him, how does a father get over his failure to do that one job?

There’s no way.

No one can understand. No one can even come close. Not even those who have been there. They were sent in too, people who’d lost loved ones, even fathers who lost their children in combat, but they wouldn’t bring Charlie back. They couldn’t convince me there was something terribly wrong with how my existence washed out compared to everyone else. Losing Lisa was rough, but I had Charlie. I thought I would always have Charlie.

“F@ck#r sh#t,” ManQuail whispered. He motioned his beak at the computer screen.

I could barely bring myself to read another word. I wanted to. I really did. But just the idea, the topic, the pain, made my guts feel like they were made of boiling lava. I stared timidly at the screen, wanting to believe Glenn had seen him, but afraid he was lying to me. And also afraid, terrified, the news wouldn’t be good.

ManQuail wrote a large paragraph. “Charlie is fine, Doug. He wants you to know he’s okay. We hung out for a while before I was brought back. He was very clear in what he wanted me to tell you. He said you have suffered enough and it hurts him to see you suffer. He said to tell you he’s with his mom and they’re doing fine. They’re watching over you. It’s like I always say, love conquers all. They said you still had a lot of work to do here on Earth. And you would be happy again. They both said that. You will be happy again even if you don’t want to be right now. I tried to get them to tell me what they meant by all of that, but they wouldn’t say. They said I would be gone soon and they needed to tell me the important stuff first. And in case you didn’t believe, they told me their names, which you have never told me. Lisa and Charlie. You lived in Flagstaff together. You had a good job in communications and marketing and were working on a novel or something. Lisa loved white roses and Charlie went nuts for Pokemon. I hope you believe me, Doug! Even if I can’t speak right, I can think right. Heaven was like the best nap in the world, warm but not hot, cool but not cold, and so comfortable!”

I looked over at my quail friend, sobbing in my head, and told him I believed every word. Only I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to be with my family.

“Sh#t. F@ck,” Glenn replied.

The words did make me feel better. But I felt worse at the same time. It’s hard to describe. This kind of pain cannot be put to words and shared with others. It’s too personal. But I knew I had to help get rid of this curse. I had to return to normal and help everyone else return to normal too. And to do that, according to Saint Kolbe, I would have to go to war.

MANTULA will return.

MANTULA Part Thirty-Two: The Cussing Quail

Doug has a potty mouth on his hands.

“Mother f@#ker!”

My eight eyes fluttered open. I wasn’t prepared for telepathic shouting in my head so early in the morning.

“God f@#king Sh#t!”

I stretched out on the couch and looked around for my dead-but-not-anymore friend. I could hear him, but with our mental link, it was hard to hone in on his location. His cussing, on the other hand, had found that sensitive part of my brain and stomped on it. I wished the bird would lower his voice.

“F@#king f@#k!”

“Everything okay, buddy?” I called out. Things didn’t sound okay, but I’ve never been dead as far as I know. I’d been turned into a tarantula, one that was growing larger thanks to the weakening curse, but I don’t think I’d been killed when my body went from human to arachnid. For ManQuail, Glenn, being dead might have had some off effects. For all I know it might have been the meth talking too, though I was pretty sure Saint Dymphna cleared all that out of his system.

“Sh#@t,” he replied. He might have been talking to himself, however, and not replying. I sprang off the couch, now fully awake, and went in search of my roommate.

He wasn’t in the living room, nor kitchen or bathroom, but I finally found him in his room. He leaped and fluttered around the space like a bird gone insane. Feathers floated everywhere. Glenn launched himself straight up from the floor as I walked in. He bounced from the ceiling and splatted once more to the carpet.

“Sh#t sh#t sh#t!”

There was something else about my friend as well. He’d grown larger. Like me, he was at least three times bigger than when I saw him last night. The vinegar worked well it seemed, or maybe it was Dymhna’s dainty touch, but we were changing and changing quickly. It still wasn’t fast enough for me (I wanted to man up again now), but any change is better than nothing I figured.

I approached the quail as he lay in the middle of the spartan bedroom. Being the room was no longer used much, I wasn’t worried about him hitting any furniture other than the bed. Before all this happened to me I cleared most of my belongings out, given them to Goodwill and other local thrift stores, and had very little left, save a few clothes and stuff, to call my own.

“A$$h@le!” Glenn flapped his wings on the floor. Feathers and down rose up like a mist around him.

“Are you calling me that or what?” I put my leg on his shoulder and exerted a bit of pressure to stabilize him a bit. Having my human-sized strength made it easy to keep him down. He panted a little, huffed and puffed, cussed a lot more, but he seemed to be calming. I kept up the pressure, hoping I wouldn’t be keeping the quail in check all day. It was weird, being that I’m an ugly tarantula, but I had a massive craving for coffee. I know I had some in the cupboards and I was resolved to make a little for myself. I wouldn’t need much, considering my size, but I really wanted some.

I let up the pressure just a bit. “C@#ks&cker bastard sh#th%ad.” He mumbled now, but it still came off pretty filthy-sounding. I was thankful he’d lowered his voice a few notches.

I reassured the bird as best I could. He stared at me as he always did and didn’t seem terrified that a large spider had a leg-hold on him. I was pretty sure he knew me, that he hadn’t lost his memory, but for some reason his recovery came with a crap-ton of cussing.


ManQuail meme!

Trying to sound light, yet comforting at the same time, I mentioned how much I wanted to brew a pot of coffee and get the day started off right. It had already started off wrong, mind you, but I didn’t want him to think that. Kolbe told me to be supportive and take care of him. I suppose if that meant holding the bird down all day then so be it. “Maybe you could go for a bit of coffee too. We could make a pot and sit on the table checking email. How does that sound?”

ManQuail nodded, seeming to understand, and began cussing up a storm once again. Only this time he didn’t flap around like a damn maniac. His cursing came off softly now, conversational really, but I had no idea what the topic of the conversation could be besides sleeping with my mother. I wondered if the two Catholic saints had any idea this would be the result of Glenn’s resurrection. He wasn’t cussing last night. He only sounded drunk. Today all he could speak were curse words. It was a little weird, and would probably crack my son up if he were here watching my predicament. I’d think it was pretty funny myself if it wasn’t so messed up. Not only were we suffering from a curse, but we’d dealt with a lot in recent days, and it appeared we had more to deal with on the horizon. On top of that I had a quail for a friend that only knew how to cuss.

Glenn followed me back into the living room and made himself comfortable on the kitchen table while I set to work making coffee. I could hear him typing on the keyboard at the computer while I filled the carafe and dug a helping of coffee grounds out of the can. The coffee had been there for a while, but I didn’t care. It still smelled like coffee and that was all that mattered. I dumped the grounds into the reusable filter and poured in the water like a mad scientist, excited for my caffeinated creation to be born. I hit the start button and stepped back, listening excitedly for the bubbling gurgle to begin. It sounded heavenly when it did. While it percolated, I join Glenn at the kitchen table. I could see he’d opened a document and written something. Glenn nodded toward the screen, urging me to take a look and said, “F@#k.”

I scanned the computer screen quickly and felt the blood rush from my body.

“I can’t seem to talk at the moment. But I want to tell you something. I saw your son, Doug. I saw him in heaven,” Glenn wrote.

MANTULA will return.

Shazam the Toyfriend

It’s easy to see why these two were the idols of five-year-olds everywhere.

Death, divorce, creditors, court struggles, alcohol, what-have-you; these things happen to almost all of us. But we don’t all have a Shazam doll stolen right out from under our noses. Those truly bad things stack up no doubt, but there’s always that first bad thing that teaches us to be on the lookout for the next bad thing. For me it had to do with Captain Marvel. Back then, and for this story, I refer to him as Shazam.


That most incredible DC Comics (originally Fawcett Comics) super hero, played in the 1970s by Jackson Bostwick, filled my mentor cup in nearly every way. From his killer cape to the Winnebago Billy Batson tooled around in righting wrongs every Saturday morning on CBS, there was nothing about him I wasn’t eating like cake. I was five or six at the time. I even watched the Secrets of Isis just in case Shazam made a cameo.

And then I got him. My very own MEGO doll of Shazam! Back then there were no action figures as there are today. They were still a year or so away I think (thanks Star Wars). I ate those up too of course, G.I. Joe, He-Man, the original Star Wars trilogy, Trek, etc., but prior to that we had MEGO dolls. I had Thor, Conan, Spider-Man, Batman, Cornelius from Planet of the Apes, Captain Kirk, Kiss dolls and Chips dolls. But my first love, my greatest accomplishment, was Shazam!

All is right with the world – so says my new Shazam doll.

So much so that I brought him to show and tell at Juan Cabrillo School in Seaside. And I showed him off alright, probably too much. Some other kid obviously felt he needed him more than I. Perhaps he thought I came from a family with more money than his family, where I could simply jaunt out and find a replacement. In either event, I returned from playing in the school yard during the lunch break to find him gone. As I did the whole day, I looked in my desk for a quick reassuring peek of my favorite “toyfriend” only to find him missing. I made a fuss to say the least. I was inconsolable. They had to call my mom. I remember feeling as if the world were crushing around my ears. I wanted to find whoever stole him and pound their little five-year-old face into jelly.

I never saw my Shazam doll again.

Take that, thief!

Whether or not my mom tried to find me a replacement I’m not sure. We drove around in a beat up Volkswagen bug with a wooden back bumper and ate TV dinners most nights. I never felt the need to steal at that point in my life, not that I didn’t dabble in it (all young children do), despite living in a neighborhood with a hooker on the corner, but we were not in the haves category either.

This is why, almost forty years later, I get all giddy and childlike at the thought of a new Shazam! Not a new TV show or movie, although I hear that’s in the works, but because those old MEGO dolls are back on the market – aimed smack dab at aging nerds like me with their own mess of issues, children they want to share a second childhood with, and a general distrust for society.

But we all hit that age where we step back and rethink our own negative outlook, where we seek to rebuild from the bottom up, and find what makes us happy in life before it’s too late.

Is that what I’m doing with my brand-spanking new Shazam doll? Beats the hell out of me. Do I feel like I can finally tell that thieving five-year-old bastard to suck it, that I have a newer, better one now?


NOTE: I am redefining the definition of toyfriend from that found in the Urban Dictionary because it’s within our power, all of us, to do just that.

Mantula in the news: the tarantula is real!


(Online news article)

The tarantula is real!

Local media seeks to bury truth

By Kip Mooney

Verde Valley Blog News

VERDE VALLEY, Ariz. – While many of you may know me from my former job as a reporter for the Sedona Daily Reader, what you may not know is that I was fired from that position this week. There will be a lot of speculation in the coming weeks as to why I was fired. I am here to clear that up.

First of all, the rumors I was arrested are true. I am now on bail awaiting sentencing thanks to the kindness of my parents. Police found drugs in my apartment when they responded to a disturbance there. They found crystal meth. Do I plan to get help for my addiction? Yes, eventually. I was fired because of the drugs and the arrest combined. But there is another angle to this story that is being buried, one I tried frantically to get my editor to cover, whether I was the lead reporter or not.

I’m talking about the tarantula that keeps popping up in the Verde Valley, from Sedona to Cottonwood. As I got deeper and deeper into my investigation, it seems I was getting close to something I shouldn’t have investigated. I got on this thing’s radar. I was arrested after that tarantula paid me a personal visit, after that tarantula assaulted me. I have bruises over most of my face and upper body, resulting from an altercation with this thing. It’s not simply a tarantula after all, no spider the size of my hand could inflict these kinds of injuries. This thing had super-human strength. But who would believe this? I don’t even believe myself half the time and I was there. The bruises are real on my body and face. The news reports and eye-witness accounts of the tarantula (and a quail accomplice) are real. I’m not even the first person to be assaulted by this thing! But the police, my editor; they all want to ignore this important point. What is this thing? That’s what I am determined to know. Where did it come from? What does it want? These questions need answered before this terror strikes again.

This story first began at the beginning of monsoon season earlier this summer. The tarantula was spotted falling from the sky by a drone performing operations over Sedona. Later, a tarantula was spotted with a quail near the site of a car wreck on State Route 89A in the red rock community. A tarantula was also spotted near the site of a crash on 89A in Cottonwood, and is believed to have caused the crash, but this time the tarantula was riding atop the quail holding a one hundred dollar bill. At the time the two weren’t thought to be connected, until I spoke with Flight Services, LLC, owner Diana Sturgis, who owns the drone that originally caught the tarantula on video. She claims the tarantula that fell from the skies near Coffee Pot Rock was later recorded holding a one-hundred dollar bill as well. Coincidence? Not damn likely.

So despite what anyone may think of me, I am determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. I will not rest until the tarantula has been brought to task for his deeds. I may have lost my job at the newspaper, but thanks to this blog, Kip Mooney will not be silenced. On top of that, again thanks to my parents, I have the funds to offer a little something to anyone who may know something about this mysterious figure. That’s right, I am offering $1,500 to anyone with information on the tarantula.

Contact me here at my blog for details.

MANTULA will return.

MANTULA Part Thirty-One: Rebirth of ManQuail Part II

Mant-31Kolbe explained the healing process wasn’t one hundred percent foolproof. There were side effects to the reawakening, such as sounding and acting like a drunk-ass fool. Another seemed to be Glenn’s odd “pit-pit” noises, which Dymphna said (in her mumbling way) was the sound made by real quails. Not even saints had their amazing God-like abilities down pat apparently. Perhaps there just isn’t a good way to bring someone back to life when they’ve first been turned into a bird due to their addiction to crystal meth.

“Hey man,” Glenn cooed. He lifted a single wing, trying to caress Dymphna’s pale cheek. She smiled, which seemed weird on her sullen mug, and let the shaky wing smack at her face. His caresses needed work. “Or girl, I guess. Yer a girl, right? Why you holding me, girl?”

Dymphna whispered to him. Her voice felt soothing in my ears, calming. It even had an effect on me. I suddenly wanted nothing more than to curl into a ball and start snoozing. She could really turn on the charm when she wanted. I doubted Kolbe could say the same. “You can relax right here in my arms. You can rest now,” she said to him.

“Relashashon…” my friend mumbled, then drifted into sleep. He made a few “pit pit” sounds, and then started snoring. Our psychic bond made those snores pretty loud in my head.

“This is likely going to continue for the next day or two until he reorients himself,” Kolbe said. “Be prepared for your mental bond to overwhelm him as well. He will need to learn how to control it again. What you can do, if possible, is exercise a bit of patience and help him out when he needs it. Watch over him a little.”

“He’s my friend, Kolbe. I will help him out.”

The man, saint or whatever, cracked a bit of a smile. He craned his neck to the small bowls of vinegar scattered throughout the apartment. “I see that stuff actually helps a bit. Weird how it absorbs negative energy. But there’s more to curses than just that. Anyone in a bad mood can create negative energy.”

I sprang to the couch. “It worked enough to bring ManQuail’s addiction back full force.”

“And it’s made you a little bigger,” Kolbe acknowledged. “You probably haven’t noticed, but your larger than any tarantula I’ve ever seen. The curse is lifting, but only a little, and very slowly. We need to accelerate it.”

“Great. Now I’m a freak of a spider. Bad enough being a regular tarantula with human-sized strength, but grossly large? When can you get me, us, back into our human bodies?”

Kolbe looked surprised. He approached the couch and took a seat next to me. Sitting there next to him didn’t make me feel all that reassured about my predicament. I could hear my son in my head, however, urging me to take a deep breath and try to be nice. It’s how he would want me to be, whether I wanted to or not.

“Me?” Kolbe said. “I’m afraid you underestimate my capabilities. I can help you understand what happened and steer you in the right direction, but this is a curse we’re dealing with. A regular, run of the mill curse, but with something of a twist.”

“Something of a twist. Right.”

Kolbe’s voice grew deadly serious. “The soul of Jacki Sturgis must be laid to rest. For the curse to lift, and lift quickly, this must be done. You, her granddaughter Diana, or both of you together, can accomplish this. But it must be done soon. As I’ve told you, she has an idea you are a threat. She’s gathering soldiers to do battle against you.”

“Why would she do this? How can an old dead woman get this powerful?”

Kolbe stared into his hands grimly. Shadows fell upon his sallow cheeks and haunted eyes. “Her granddaughter has told you her story I believe. Her anger, anyone’s anger for that matter, can propel a soul into dangerous territory. She wants the curse to persevere. She wants to rain it upon us, Dymphna and I, by sending these afflicted souls to our doorstep. It’s growing, you know, the curse is beginning to spread like a shock wave. Soon it will affect those suffering in Flagstaff, in Camp Verde, Prescott and elsewhere. Within a year it could reach the west coast.”

“For what reason?” I asked.

Kolbe shrugged. “Hatred I suppose. Revenge perhaps. It’s hard to say. Miserable minds seek to make others know their misery.”

“I didn’t ask for any of this. I have my own misery. I just want that back and all of this… I want all of this to go away.”

“You’ll have to play a little longer to find that peace, Doug. Help Glenn here to recover and set the soul of Jackie Sturgis to rest.”

Glenn is back!

Saint Dymphna appeared beside me on the couch. Silently, she laid Glenn’s snoring body beside me. He looked like a regular little quail at that point, almost cute in a way. I watched his feathered chest rise and fall, still amazed he had returned to the land of the living. I wondered how he’d feel come morning. Could be he’d wake up smack dab in the middle of the night screaming for meth. That worried me a little, but I felt confident these saints knew what they were doing, at least a little anyway. With luck he’d give up on the stuff, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

“I’m ready to leave now, Max.” Dymphna announced.

Kolbe climbed to his feet. “Enjoy this peace and quiet while you can, Mister Lansing. It will soon come to an end.”

“Nice words to leave me with. Thanks for that.”

The two saints made their way out of my crappy little apartment without so much as another word. I was left with a reincarnated quail, my thoughts, and the feeling I was about to go to war.

 MANTULA will return

MANTULA Part Thirty: The Rebirth of ManQuail Part One

Doug finds himself annoyed by a couple of Catholic Saints.

Gagged on pop culture, polluted by

depression, comes Mantula!

A special fiction series!

“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked the man, though to be honest I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to hear me or not. Seeing as how Glenn and I spoke via a telepathic bond, I kind of doubted he would get so much as a peep from me. His answer, therefore, came as a surprise.

“I’ve come to give you a hand,” he replied. “And, like your emails, I see your just as obstinate in the real world.”

I laughed. “The real world? Is that what you call this crappy life?”

“Nice to meet you, Doug.”

“Saint Kolbe. What are you doing here? What are you doing with Glenn?” I stared at the young girl. She couldn’t have been more than eighteen. Her mousy brown hair, parted dead in the middle, hugged her face in limp strands. Her sallow, pale face barely looked up from the dead quail in her arms.

Saint Kolbe sighed in frustration. He motioned to the young girl to sit. “Why don’t you first tell me about your night? I can see it’s been a busy one. You two are nothing if not busy bodies.”

I hit an arm against the door to the apartment. It slammed shut, blocking this weird scene from the outside world. I didn’t need the neighbors to talk. Kolbe, wearing a gray turtleneck sweater straight out of the 1970s, black slacks, and white loafers, watched me through his round John Lennon glasses.

“There’s nothing to tell. Just another wonderful night in Mantula’s Crappy Little Apartment,” I answered. “I did kick that bastard reporter’s ass tonight if that’s what you’re talking about.”

He sighed again. The young girl didn’t seem to be paying any attention to either of us. Was she mental? “Why do you insist on calling yourself that? I know you think it’s what you’re son would name you. You’re little attack is just making things worse for you, Doug. You’re setting a series of events in motion that I don’t think I can undo.”

“Undo? You haven’t undone a damn thing. For a saint, you’re not taking care of much. You don’t even send emails in a nice way. And don’t talk about my son.”

I could tell the man struggled to stay patient. “Kip Mooney isn’t your only enemy, but you can now count him among them. Count on that.”

“The crazy witch ghost. Trust me, I’m aware she isn’t a fan.”

“There’s another too. Someone you’ve only met briefly, so briefly you don’t even remember. A man who hates spiders because of you, a common street thug. He’s been haunted by his encounter with you, Doug. He’s been looking for you and the spirit woman knows this. They want you dead.”

To be honest, at that moment I couldn’t care less about some thug I’d never met. I couldn’t give two craps about the wormy witch or Kip Mooney. Were I human I might have communicated that to Saint Kolbe by showing him my middle finger. As a tarantula, it wouldn’t come off right.

Instead I trotted past the odd pair. “I think there’s been enough death for one night. Enough talk too. If you two would excuse me, I’m going to go to bed. Kolbe, I’d appreciate it if you ask your friend to put Glenn back on the couch where she found him.”

“You don’t have any idea who this is, do you Glenn?”

“Right now I could care less.”

“Dymphna? Would you like to introduce yourself to ‘Mantula?’” The last he mutterd in air quotes.

So this young little thing held the lofty title of saintliness just like Kolbe – the quiet, unresponsive saint copied on all of Kolbe’s emails, the patron saint of mental disorders, finally got involved enough to appear in my living room.

“I’d rather not,” she replied. “He seems like he’s in a foul mood. I don’t waste my time on cretins.”

“Cretins? Why don’t you two see yourselves out.”

Kolbe laughed, quietly, but with a hint of stubbornness. “Not just yet.”

“Whatever. Do what you want. I’m going to bed.”


Glenn gets touched by a saint.

“Wouldn’t you like to say hello to Glenn first?”

I stopped, a little taken back by the man’s brazen attitude. Kolbe was no friend of mine, not by a long shot, but I didn’t think he was that cold, not being a saint and all. Apparently I was wrong about that. My only real friend, as anyone in the room could see, hadn’t take a breath the whole time they’d been there.

“Just give Dymphna here a few minutes and you can,” he said.

Dymphna mumbled. She cradled Glenn’s quail body in both hands, but stared directly at me. “Unless you’re too sleepy. Then, by all means, go to bed.” Her eyes, the color of jade, seemed to cut right through me.

“What are trying to tell me here? Are you saying…”

Kolbe whispered just as an orange light began to pour from the young girl’s palm. “She can bring him back, Doug. For what’s coming, you will need your friend’s help I think.”

“Bring him back?” I was spellbound by the warmth of the glow coming from her hand. It pulsated orange, then yellow like a morning sun, then a dark orange.

Kolbe explained things as if he were a doctor talking to a patient. “It’s not as easy as you think. Had we been an hour later, there would have been no hope, but we got here in time. Lucky for us we didn’t have to worry about a locked apartment, with you out getting your anger off, as you left the window open.”

“You can really bring Glenn back from the dead?”

“He won’t be himself for a while. Remember that. These things take time and he will have to rest, heal from the death experience for a day or two, but I’ve taken care of the drugs in his system. I got to that before you arrived. His addiction, however, thanks to the curse’s ebbing strength; that will remain.”

“This is unbelievable!” I shouted.

The glow intensified, filling half the room, and before long I heard an odd “pit-pit” noise. The orange glow intensified, then suddenly faded. The quail in her hands burned a hot white in color, but I could hear him in my head. I could hear his voice in my head!

“It’s my birfday or sumpin,’ right?” he asked. Not sure why but he sounded drunk.


Top 5 awesomest things on my desk

There are actually tons of awesome things. The desk itself is awesome (being that’s it’s an old secretary number, small and compact, with a door that opens to become desk space). The envelopes and stamps are awesome (because they show how prepared I am), but there are five things more awesome than everything else. That makes them the awesomest things.

photo 1 (2)1. Steve Austin

Found at a recent auction at the Goodwill in Salinas, Steve is my best friend and desk monitor. The happy child somewhere in my skull remembers playing with him back when television shows were found on television sets, at a specific time, once a week (as opposed to every episode all at once). Steve guards my stuff with his bionic badassery and represents something I can’t put my finger on. My childhood maybe. And his little eye hole is awesome. Crazy awesome.

04b1f-photo2b22. Moleskin love

Moleskin notebooks aren’t the cheapest notebooks in the world, but they feel super. While I spend (a little) more wisely on most things, I still pop for new Moleskins when I run out. But used smartly, these suckers last six months or more. My current one, shaped to the curve of my left buttock, is full of shopping lists, collection lists, to do notes, and a few interesting thoughts, but mostly it reminds me to pay my car insurance and buy milk, which is why I never leave home without first putting it into my back pocket. The soft black cardboard cover feels like silk to the touch. Try it. It really is awesome.

baa33-photo2b22b23. The Reading Journal

Mantula likes this one too. It’s got a book light in it, magnetic book marks, and the journal itself, which carries a running list of every book I’ve read since owning the journal. I’ve had it about five years now and still haven’t filled it. When I’m feeling really ambitious, usually after a week off work, I might actually write out my thoughts on a particular book within it’s pages. Usually I only write a line. But look at the journal (actually the box that holds all the journal crap). It’s awesome. Does it really matter how well it’s used?

2ed3e-photo2b42b24. Magic

A fake thumb and a fake lighter. The thumb is capable of so much, but mostly for making small cloth squares disappear. It’s a tool to be used when you want to make other people think you’re cool. The lighter, amazingly, serves the opposite purpose of most lighters. Instead of fire, it shoots out water. It’s just that awesome. It’s insanely magical.

8e181-photo2b52b25. Old dictionary

I still use the 1926 edition of “Webster’s Handy-Service Dictionary of the English Language” self-pronouncing edition because it stinks like an old book. And like my Moleskin, the cover (probably made from human flesh) feels smooth to the touch. In its pages are words like “henceforth” and “remonstrate,” while words like “selfie” and “blog” are nowhere. I don’t really have a problem with blog (obviously) – or selfie really. But I do at the same time. It’s weird. The dictionary doesn’t have a definition for awesome, which is a bummer because it is.

MANTULA Part Twenty-Nine: The Death of ManQuail Part Two


I hauled Glenn back to my crappy little apartment with two of my legs clenched gently around his limp neck. He didn’t struggle, come to life and flap around, or otherwise express any indignation at being pulled through the dirt. I couldn’t leave him there on the side of the road next to a trash can. He’d probably get munched up by a wild animal or found in the morning and chucked in the trash. I couldn’t let that happen. So I brought him back home with one thought circulating like hot lava in my head. Mooney, that nasty prick, would pay.

Who knows how long it took me to get him there under the cover of darkness. I don’t remember much of it, but I know I set him on the couch and rested his head on one of the pillows I liked to lay my human head on, back before all this nastiness happened to me. Not just to me, I told myself, but to a lot of people who didn’t deserve to have this curse thrust into their miserable lives. Some of us, like Glenn, were better off because of it perhaps. He’d been cured of his meth addiction for a time. But look at him now.

I got on the computer and starting looking for Mooney. I found he’d emailed Glenn to let him know he’d stuck his order in a crevice by the ice cream shop, the usual drop spot, and to let him know he got it. He also said he’d expect payment within the week – a favor for an old friend. It didn’t take me long to find his address online. He didn’t bother to hide it. One look at his Facebook and I had it memorized. Next I mapped the best route there. Within twenty minutes of returning with ManQuail I was off, alone and determined, to see my friend’s dealer. My tarantula body didn’t tire like my human body did, though I confess I wasn’t altogether there mentally. After visiting Diana’s house and learning the story of her witchy grandmother, then finding out ManQuail had already started the curse “decontamination” project, which brought his addiction crawling back to him like a slutty relationship begging forgiveness; it had been a long day.

Kip Mooney would probably be asleep when I got there. At least that’s what I figured. He lived in an apartment complex about ten blocks from my own. Using side streets and the cover of what was by now late at night (I had no idea of the time), I made it there in about 20 minutes. He lived in an apartment at the back of the complex, on the ground level, with a small enclosed area next to his front door – sort of a patio area where a washer and dryer could also be found tucked against the far wall. The place looked dark, though a number of nearby apartments were still lit, shining a pale lemon glow on the sliding door that opened to Kip’s patio. I scrambled up and over the stucco wall and heard music coming from inside, followed by light female laughter. It seemed Mooney was still up. And he had company no less. Letting my boiling anger lead me, I crept toward the sliding door and pulled it aside, just a smidge, not enough to be noticed, but enough for me to get in. “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle” belted from his iPod speakers. I might have appreciated his affection for Nirvana had he been any other man. But this was the dick who nearly raped Diana Sturgis and doped out my dead best friend. I knew what my son would want me to do, what he’d want Mantula to do, and I wasted no time in doing it.

I smirked. “Here I come, Dope-man.”

There were two girls in the dark apartment when I entered. Both were dark-skinned, black-haired Latinas; their prettiness obscured by black eyeliner and red lipstick. They were topless, stuffing wads of bills into the elastic bands of their hot pink panties. Behind them stood Kip Mooney, also shirtless, and buttoning up his Levis. Sweat covered his thin upper torso. His face, on the other hand, looked scoured and handsome – the perfect lumbersexual asshat. He slid his black eyeglasses onto his face, patted each of the girls on their young, bubbly asses, then saw me.

A wad of cash rained to the carpet from his hands. His mouth opened in shock. “God, it’s you. The tarantula!”

Doug gets his revenge on Kip Mooney.

I ran for him, letting red rage blind me. I know the girls screamed hysterically. I know Nirvana continued to lament Seattle’s death by popularity. Otherwise, I saw only a flurry of hairy legs, all eight, rain hurt on that punk. I only had to point them in the right direction and they took it from there. Blood sprayed the air. Mooney cried out numerous times. He might have landed a blow on me, but I barely noticed. Practicing with the wife beater downstairs made kicking this guy’s ass a cakewalk. He had the looks, but no fighting style. At some point during the melee, I bounced off a wall, careened into the little prick drug dealer and knocked him into a cupboard. Little baggies of meth spilled everywhere around him. Stumbling, swinging his arms blindly, Mooney stepped all over them. I doubt he even noticed. The women beat a path out the front door, yelling in Spanish like crazy, and I figured it was time to get out of there before I killed the guy. He deserved no less, but I wasn’t sure I was prepared to live with it. I know my son wouldn’t approve.

I dashed out the way I came in, Nirvana still blaring behind me, and disappeared into the dark night. A few minutes later I heard sirens. I waited in the bushes for a while until I saw two squad cars pull up to the complex, splashing blue and red lights over the outside walls of the apartments. I wondered what the police would make of all the meth in Mooney’s pad.

The rage began to dissipate as I made my way back home. I wasn’t sure what to do with Glenn’s body. Should I bury him? Should I find a way to take him back home to his parents’ place in Camp Verde? ManQuail would probably like that. He felt bad about what he’d done to them. I figured I could get him there, maybe bury him on the property, without them even knowing about it. As it turned out, I wouldn’t have to figure out how to get to Camp Verde.

Something happened while I was away. The door to my apartment was open. All the lights were on and I could see movement inside. Cautiously, I made my way up the stairs and peeked around the corner. There were two people inside my crappy little apartment, one a teenage girl by the looks of it, and the other an older man with round spectacles, quite old-fashioned, perched on the bridge of his nose. The girl carried the body of ManQuail in her arms. The man watched her, a concerned look on his face, and that’s when I recognized him. He knew I was there too. He pivoted around the girl and looked right at me, his face a grim mask of annoyance.

“I see you’ve finally decided to grace us with your presence,” said Saint Maximilian Kolbe.


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