Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Day I Slaughtered a Pumpkin

 A gardening friend gave me a pumpkin. 


What the hell am I supposed to do with a pumpkin? 


She suggested making a pie.  


I said I could try, but I had my doubts I would. 


Yet, I did.


Two, actually. 


I found a recipe on the Food Network website… 

(Click here for the details

…and then grabbed a big knife! 🔪 


First, I decapitated the stem, like I was about to carve a jack o’lantern.  Then I cut the pumpkin’s body in half and disemboweled it.  As if saving a souvenir from my kill, I placed the gooey, seedy guts safely aside.


A baked smoking pumpkin cut in half
Someone is ignoring the “No Smoking” sign

Throwing the two oiled-up halves in the oven for a half hour or so made it easier to slice the pumpkin meat from its skin.  Then I pounded the meat hard until it became a smooth, creamy substance.  Adding molasses, cinnamon, ginger and other stuff, I stirred until it was time to fill the store bought pie crusts.  (My deepest apologies to Ms. Floridia Minch


Two pumpkin pies ready to be baked
My pies use protection

Around an hour later, I had two (mostly) made from scratch pies.  Surprisingly, unlike the chocolate salt lick pie I made in home-ec class, my pumpkin pies were quite tasty.  I even shared one pie with my gardening friend, our mutual friend and a few librarians.  The best part about that was nobody but the pumpkin died from my baking experiment.


Two fresh out of the oven pumpkin pies
This is the day when 1 becomes 2

As for my souvenir, I washed the guts off the pumpkin seeds and let them dry.  Then I pored a little canola oil in a bowl, added a pinch of salt and mixed in the seeds.  After draining the excess oil, I baked them on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 350° F, turning the seeds every 5 minutes.  What I learned from this is that unborn pumpkins taste a lot like big sunflower seeds. 


A plate of baked pumpkin seeds
Seeds of Sin?

I also learned that my grandma must have really, really loved us for some reason.  Why else would she have cooked multiple pies and dinners a year over many years?  I mean, I was wiped out just from making the two pies this one time.  


In other words, while I’m glad I made the pies, I don’t love anyone enough to make a habit out of slaughtering pumpkins. 😏


The corpse of a pumpkin
2021 - 2021 🪦 

Happy Thanksgiving or whatever.


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S.  click the pic ⤵️ to get hardcore thankful…


Two eyes staring from a box

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In case you need to escape a family gathering… 


Go home


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

HAUNTING STURGEONS: Chapter Sixteen

 Previously in this blog serial...


(Click here to read Chapter Fifteen


Now the HAUNTING continues...

______________


Haunting sturgeons, chapter 16, by john L. Harmon


    I am staring at my phone in the parking area of VDV Pharmacy.  The three little dots wave as I wait for Eddie’s response.  He says that his day has been busy but good.  I briefly explain my day has been informative, but it’s not over yet.  He wishes me good luck and promises to text when he’s off work.  I imagine Eddie’s father breathing down his neck, so I’m glad we are able to touch base at all. 


    Pocketing my phone, I get out of my car and walk through the small parking area, conflicting emotions fighting for attention.  I’m eager to talk more with Eddie but I’m anxious over speaking with Christine Abernathy-Woodhouse.  Straker’s book painted her as a logical scientist who hides her caring heart behind an extreme no-nonsense demeanor.  This fictional account makes me uncertain how she’ll react to the subject of ten years ago.  


    I enter the pharmacy, its  harsh lighting makes the afternoon sun appear dim in comparison.  Blinking my eyes, I take in the grey rows of toiletries, medicine and greeting cards spreading out before me.  Much like the library, this is a place I rarely visited as a kid and I can see why.  From the severely organized shelves to the intense clerk, nothing about it seems kid-friendly. 


    “May I help you, young man?” the clerk inquires.


    I flinch a little and face an older man with features as sharp as his tone.  “Yes, I’m looking for Christine Abernathy-Woodhouse.” 


    “Oh,” he utters with a barely discreet eye roll.  “She’s behind the pharmacy.” 


    “Thank you, sir.”  I start towards the far end of the store where prescriptions are filled, but the clerk corrects me. 


    “Not there!”  He doesn’t even try to hide rolling his eyes this time.  “She’s in the alley on her smoke break.”  


    I’m sure the look on my face matches the shock I feel.  Nowhere in Shadowtown did I get the impression the scientist smoked cigarettes or anything else.  Maybe the lawman used fiction to paint a prettier version of himself and his friends while exposing the ugly truth of others, such as Ms. Minch and my father.  


    Thanking the moody clerk again, I quickly vacate the pharmacy.  A sidewalk leads me around the building to an alley that I wouldn’t want to walk down at night.  The pavement appears wet even though it hasn’t rained since I arrived in Sturgeons.  Scraps of paper and other bits of litter are scattered about, making me watch my step.  I fully expect to see a huge rat scurry from one of the many overflowing trash cans.  


    Instead of a rat, I see Christine Abernathy-Woodhouse, with yellow-blond hair just like her fictional counterpart.  The tall woman is leaning against an exposed red brick wall, her clean white lab coat sticking out like a sore thumb.  Apparently the pharmacy couldn’t be bothered to panel the backside in the same stone-grey siding as the front, but it makes sense with the grungy surroundings.  


    I notice her cautiously noticing my approach.  Her tense body language warns me to take this slow, so I do the only thing I can think of, even though I don’t smoke.  “Got an extra one?”  


    She tilts her head, examining me for a moment before shoving a hand into a pocket and retrieving a rectangular pack.  I hesitate and then pull one out, but it’s not a cigarette.  The long white cylinder between my fingers is a candy stick and so is the one she is removing from her lips. 


    “What do you want, kid?”  


    I sense that a direct question from Christine Abernathy-Woodhouse demands a direct answer.  “My name is Jimmy Schroder and I have a question about Shadowtown.” 

______________


The HAUNTING continues on November 30, 2021   


Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words! 


Freak Out, 

JLH 


~~~~~~~~~~~~

Click the pic ⤵️ for a bloody good film review…


My heart can’t beat unless you tell it to


Friday, November 19, 2021

freakboy on film: MY HEART CAN’T BEAT UNLESS YOU TELL IT TO (2020)

One of my favorite things to do is to take a chance on a film I know little to nothing about.  Sometimes I watch because of a movie poster (The Sweet Hereafter - 1997) or a title (The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot - 2018) or even because the film was released by a familiar company (Mangus!- 2011).  There has been a mixture of hits and misses over the years, but nothing detours me once my mind is set on a film. 


This thing I love doing continued recently at the library.  With my Mad Scientist Glasses on and focused, I was searching for something different to watch because I guess a freak can’t live on Andy Milligan films alone.  I pulled a recently added DVD off the shelf and studied its intriguing cover.  Two faces in profile were staring at each other with a long title in between on a white background.  The title was in red and black, but the font made it nearly impossible for my half-blind eyes to decipher.  Sometimes, if the words are large and plain enough, I can figure it out, but all I managed was… “MY…YOU TELL IT TO.”  


Between the two faces, one of which I thought looked angry, and the mystery of the title, I had to see what the hell this film was about.  Yes, I could’ve asked a librarian or my sister about the title and the synopsis on the back, but where’s the fun in that?  So I took a breath, popped in the disc and hit play. 


The DVD of my heart can’t beat unless you tell it to

I want to tell you everything I saw, but I also don’t want to spoil anything.  Knowing less is more as you slowly get drawn into the hypnotic story.  A story of blood.  The blood that binds us.  The blood that fuels us.  The blood that destroys us.  The blood that is family.


Actors Patrick Fugit, Ingrid Sophie Schram and Owen Campbell create a believable family unit brimming with dysfunction and resentment.  It almost feels like you could encounter these damaged characters in real life.  Writer/director Jonathan Curtas allows the claustrophobic story to unfold in a visually stark, realistic way.  


In conclusion, I consider MY HEART CAN’T BEAT UNLESS YOU TELL IT TO a hit on my list and it’s worth your time if you enjoy a moody film that makes you question how far you would go to help a loved one.  


BTW, I figured out the title during an unexpected scene.


Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S.  Click the pic ⤵️ for more about family dysfunction and blood…

A scene of a family eating dinner

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In case you want to go HAUNTING…


Haunting Sturgeons by john L. Harmon


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

HAUNTING STURGEONS: Chapter Fifteen

 Previously in this blog serial...


(Click here to read Chapter Fourteen


Now the HAUNTING continues...

______________


Haunting Sturgeons, chapter 15, by john L. Harmon

    I am organizing my thoughts as the head librarian stares at me with his eager green eyes.  There are many things I could say about Benjamin Straker’s book.  Personal things about Tommy and our parents, about the traffic jam of fleeing humanity.  Things I’m not going to discuss with a complete stranger.  Instead I focus on the conclusion of Shadowtown, where the unbelievable answer is revealed. 


    “What the hell is this shit?” I ask, emphasizing the question by firmly pushing the book away. 


    His red hair glowing from the hanging light above us, Simon Hollis finally releases his thoughts, “Exactly!  I mean, I know it’s designated as fiction, even though it’s obviously based on what happened back then, but come on!  I can’t believe that ridiculous, preposterous ending is true!” 


    I nod my head in complete agreement.  “How is anyone supposed to believe that a repressed psychopath, living in a dilapidated mansion in the woods, destroyed an entire town using a giant swarm of bugs?” 


    “Cybernetically enhanced bugs,” Simon corrects, his tone droll and his expression lively.  “I don’t know what actually happened, but Straker must have been on a powerful hallucinogenic when he wrote this.”  


    Simon makes a good point.  He doesn’t know what happened and neither do I.  This brings up a question that I should’ve asked Eddie, but I was so overwhelmed by seeing him again to even think about it.  “What do people in Sturgeons say about what happened ten years ago?” 


    The head librarian leans forward, a conspiratorial look on his face.  “They don’t.  Well, not  directly.  They just whisper between the stacks and in public restrooms.”  He slips into a wry grin, “I’ve overheard talk of sinkholes, earthquakes, government experiments and all sorts of nutball theories.” 


    “Interesting, but not surprising.”  Thinking about the four characters at the end of Shadowtown, I wonder if there is someone in Sturgeons who knows more.  “Assuming Straker is the sheriff in the book and Clyde Woodhouse is the deputy, who are the two scientists?” 


    “Well, the tall drink of hot nerd with a mop top became Straker’s husband.”  Simon gazes off for a second, as if remembering something pleasant before continuing, “Then the intimidating blond woman became the bride of Woodhouse.  They still live here in hetero-centric bliss or whatever.” 


    “Do you know where I can find her?”  The notion of talking with a scientist sounds better than chatting with an embarrassing childhood police crush.


    He checks the time on his phone, “She should still be at the pharmacy.  Just ask for Christine Abernathy-Woodhouse.” 


    “Thank you, Simon.  You’ve been a real help.”  I stand up, ready to visit the bride of Woodhouse, if she’ll give me the time of day.


    “You’re welcome, Jimmy, but hold on.”  The head librarian gets up, places Shadowtown back on the dusty shelf and then faces me.  “I’ll walk you out.”


    As we leave the library basement, Simon confirms my suspicions by thanking me for chatting about Straker’s book.  It seems I am the first person to ever ask about Shadowtown and this made his day.  I tell him that I’m glad to hear it and he stops me near the main desk with a possibility. 


    “Perhaps we can meet up later.  You know, get to know each other better.”


    Maybe it’s the unexpected proposition, his sly wink or an obviously eavesdropping clerk, but I fumble through my words while thinking of Eddie, “Sounds nice, but I’m…um, kind of…busy.”


    “I understand.”  Simon Hollis sees right through my clumsy response, “I hope he’s worth it.”


    “He is,” I reply with a smile, and it’s true.  Eddie Newcastle is worth it.  However, as I leave the library, I question if I’m really worth it for Eddie.

______________


The HAUNTING continues in…


Chapter 16

   

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words! 


Freak Out, 

JLH 


~~~~~~~~~~~~

Click the pic ⤵️ to explore other fantasies of my deranged mind… 🧠 


The books of john L. Harmon spiraling in a circle.


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

HAUNTING STURGEONS: Chapter Fourteen

Previously in this blog serial...


(Click here to read Chapter Thirtteen


Now the HAUNTING continues...

______________


Haunting Sturgeons, Chapter 14, by john L. Harmon


    I am reading the translated side of Benjamin Straker’s book.  The library basement evaporates around me as I devour every revealing word.  It’s quickly apparent that Shadowtown is a fictional account of the events leading up to the destruction of Sturgeons ten years ago, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent.  Even with this, I recognize the disguised faces and locations, especially those of Tommy and Stickler Hill. 


    An early chapter details a sunrise breakfast shared between young lovers on a certain hill.  The lawman imbues the scene with gentle warmth, perhaps as a contrast to the horror that will follow.  On their walk home through the inviting woods, the young man is attacked by a dark mass of something. Terrified, the young woman watches as her lover seems to be consumed by the darkness, his screams echoing through the trees.


    I nearly stop reading at this point.  My entire being feels the fear and pain Tommy must have experienced.  This makes me think about Tracy Newcastle.  I never understood what she witnessed and why she left Tommy behind.  If what transpires in the book is remotely close to what happened that Sunday morning, I can’t blame her for running for her life.  I might have done the same thing. 


    Despite my hesitation, I keep reading.  There’s more I need to know and I soon read about a judgmental old lady spying out her window.  She watches as a neighbor disappears into darkness, almost exactly how Ms. Minch described it to me.  I’m surprised she didn’t sue the lawman for portraying her fictional counterpart exactly like she is in real life.  Then again, maybe she did.  It would explain why the book has been relegated to obscurity. 


    Next is a chapter describing how the residents of the small town are fed up with all the disappearances and lack of answers.  An angry mob confronts the sheriff at a bar one night and then, the next morning, everyone is fleeing town.  This is when a character gathers up a group of men and instigates a fight with the sheriff.  Death seems imminent, but the character’s wife intervenes by stepping in between the men and the pummeled sheriff.  I clearly recognize my father’s rage and my mother’s compassion. 


    It would be easy to slip back into that memory again, but the last chapter holds my focus on a tragic scene.  The sheriff, his deputy and two scientists discover what is happening and who is responsible, but it’s too late.  The small town is obliterated by the darkness.  Wiped off the map as the four of them safely watch from the top of a certain hill.  I turn to the epilogue, where there is an inspiring speech of hope for the future amid the destruction.  Then the sheriff and the deputy kiss their respective new lovers. 


    I slowly close Shadowtown and flinch a little at the sight of Simon Hollis.  I forgot he joined me at the table and it weirds me out that he’s been watching me this whole time.  He must not have any pressing head librarian duties, but at least he stayed quiet while I was reading.  Simon locks eyes with me, his expression like an overfilled balloon about to burst.  It then dawns on me that he has probably been waiting for years to talk with someone about the lawman’s book, and I definitely have something to say. 

______________


The HAUNTING continues in…


Chapter 15


Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words! 


Freak Out, 

JLH 


~~~~~~~~~~~~

Click the pic ⤵️ to experience the latest video for The FreakOptic Files


Paper Cuts, 2021, The FreakOptic Files


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

HAUNTING STURGEONS: Chapter Thirteen

Previously in this blog serial...


(Click here to read Chapter Twelve


Now the HAUNTING continues...

______________


Haunting Sturgeons, chapter 13 by john L. Harmon

    I am climbing the precarious stone steps of the rebuilt Sturgeons Public Library.  I wasn’t an avid reader as a kid, so my memories of this place are vague pieces at best.  An echoing silence.  A slight musty staleness in the air.  Occasional shushing.  I recall the overall feeling being serious and more for adults than children.


    Two pillars stand guard on either side of the double doors, the only ornate aspect of the two-story brick building.  I enter and take in the one large room, finding it how I remember, but also different.  The walls hold shelves of non-fiction books, with several free-standing rows for fiction.  An assortment of tables and chairs are scattered about, along with a few patrons watching me.  Across from the doors is the main desk, which is where the difference can be seen.


    Instead of the clinched, no-nonsense librarian from another era that I remember, there stands someone only a few years older than me.  His fiery red hair is a splash of vibrant color against the muted shades of green and grey.  He smiles as I approach, my footsteps shattering the silence.  The curious look in his eyes indicates he is trying to place me, but I don’t think I know him.  I would surely remember his vivid put together-disheveled style.


    “Hello, may I help you?” the librarian inquires, his green eyes still searching for recognition. 


    Thinking about the other patrons, I lower my voice to a loud whisper, “Hi, I am looking for a book.”


    As if out of habit, he readies his fingers on the computer keyboard.  “What’s the title?”


    “I don’t know,” I answer, feeling my heart thudding in my chest, “but the author is Benjamin Straker.”  Even with my lowered volume, I swear the lawman’s last name reverberates through the stacks.


    The librarian removes his fingers from the keyboard and gives me a hard look.  Then a knowing smile slides across his face, “Are you Jimmy Schroder?” 


    “Yes,,” I answer uneasily.  “Why do you ask?”


    “You’re on the list.”  Before I can ask about this list, he tells a nearby clerk to watch the front desk and then beckons me with a wave.  The need to know drives me forward and I follow this suddenly talkative stranger.  He tells me his life story as we walk through a door into a back room.  His name is Simon Hollis and he interned at the library as a teenager.  Then he came back to become the youngest head librarian in Sturgeons history.   Simon had also been in the same class as Tommy, but I still don’t remember him.  He grins as we walk down a narrow flight of stairs, “You know, your brother cut a fine figure.  Such a waste that he wasn’t more like…us.” 


    I don’t even know how to respond as we continue down the stairs, especially with his sly wink.  Obviously everyone from the elderly to his peers wanted my brother, but I would rather focus on more important topics.  “So, what’s this about a list?” 


    “Oh, it’s a list of names,” Simon answers vaguely as he flips on a set of lights hanging from the ceiling.  Shelves of old, dusty books fill the basement, along with a solitary table and two chairs in the middle.  “Names of people he believed would be interested in reading his book.” 


    “You mean Benjamin Straker’s book?” I ask, just to make sure the librarian and I are still on the same page. 


    “Yes,” Simon answers, his back turned to me as he studies one particular shelf.  “I only met Straker once, when he left his book here.  He struck me as a nice guy, but he split town with his husband before I could get to know him.  I swear the good ones are always married or hetero-centric.  Ah, here it is!” 


    I watch as the librarian removes an oversized paperback from the shelf and blows dust off of it.  Coughing a little, he places the volume on the table.  I can barely believe Ms. Minch steered me in the right direction and now the lawman’s book is in front of me.  Taking a seat, I study the green and black cover, but there is something peculiar.  I open the book and feel my heart sink. 


    “What language is this?” I question as I flip through a few pages of unfamiliar markings.


    “It’s shorthand.  Guess Straker was eccentric.”  Simon grins and takes a seat across from me, “Flip it over.”


    I do as he says and study the revelation.  The back cover is almost identical to the front but the text has been translated.  Can the lawman’s words actually explain what happened to my brother?  Could it change my feelings?  Alter my perception of the last ten years?  Caught up in my thoughts, I forget that I’m not alone and read the cover out loud, “Shadowtown, a novel by Benjamin J. Straker.”

______________


The HAUNTING continues in…


Chapter 14
  

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words! 


Freak Out, 

JLH 


~~~~~~~~~~~~

Click the pic ⤵️ to open November’s Collective Eye interview with artist-author…


JP Cline-Márquez