Tuesday, September 14, 2021

HAUNTING STURGEONS: Chapter Six

Previously in this blog serial...


(Click here to read Chapter Five


Now the HAUNTING continues...

______________


Haunting Sturgeons, chapter 6, by John L. Harmon

    I am standing outside of Gordon’s Bar.  My father would occasionally come here to celebrate a big win for Tommy’s football team.  Tommy would join him for a triumphant soda, but I never did.  I just heard stories afterwards of cheering, vomiting and even back alley fighting.  The latter being my biggest fear as I open the door to loud voices and music.


    I step inside and it’s as if a switch has been flipped.  All conversations come to a screeching halt and the music dies, throwing the dimly lit room into uncomfortable silence.  The bartender, along with half a dozen customers sitting at the bar, all focus on me.  I glance away, spotting an old-fashioned jukebox, with a croquet mallet mounted on the wall above it.  A tall man is towering over the machine, also watching.  My fight or flight mode kicks in and the choice is quick and easy.  I stand my ground, letting the door close behind me. 


    “Jimmy, you’re here.”  Eddie steps from the neon shadows, a welcoming smile cutting through the tension.


    “Yeah, I’m here, but I hope it’s ok.”  I tilt my head towards the deathly quiet reception.


    “Don’t worry about them.  They’re just cautious.”  Eddie slips into his lopsided grin, putting me at ease.  “Come on, I got us a table.” 


    I follow him to an intimate setting far away from the crowd.  We sit down and I can’t help but think how he cleans up well.  His hair is now parted in the middle, with a cluster of dark strands hanging unbearably close to his right eye and there isn’t a spot of grease on his clothes.  I am about to compliment him when the bartender arrives. 


    Eddie exchanges pleasantries with the curly-haired woman and then introduces me.  Her name is Valerie Danforth and she is only a few years older than us.  I don’t know her, but I recognize something in her eyes.  Something I see when I visit my mother or look in the mirror.  We order a pitcher of beer and she asks to see my I.D.  Valerie studies my driver’s license with the same intensity as Sheriff Johns and I expect her to mention my brother, but she doesn’t.  She simply returns my license, announcing she’ll be right back with our beer. 


    “So, do you come here often?” I ask, trying to avoid a different question turning in my mind.


    “Once in a blue moon, but Val is great.”  Eddie leans forward, smiling proudly, “If anyone here gives me shit, she kicks them to the curb.”


    “I like her already.”  I glance towards the bar as she fills our order.  Maybe I shouldn’t ask, but I want to know if I’m right.  “Did she lose someone ten years ago?” 


    “Yeah, her grandfather.”  Eddie frowns a little.  “He owned the bar back then.  How did you know?” 


    Before I can say more, Val is setting our pitcher of beer and two filled glasses between us.  We both reach for our wallets, but she waves a hand, locking eyes with me.  “On the house for a fellow Sturgeonite.” 


    “I, um, thank you, Val,” I fumble through my gratitude.  She replies with a quick nod and turns to leave.  Watching her walk away, I wonder if Gordon’s Bar is where the irreparably damaged come to forget, or maybe to remember.  The voices and music resume as Val draws closer to the bar and I chuckle a little.  “Guess it really is ok for me to be here.”


    Eddie, either ignoring or forgetting his question, gives me a look that says, I told you so I smirk a sarcastic shut up at him and we can’t help but laugh, making it feel as if no time has passed.  He adds to the feeling by raising his beer, initiating the old routine, and I follow his action.  Clinking our glasses together twice, like we always did with our sodas, we simultaneously chant our childhood toast, “Up and at ‘em.” .


    After a long sip, Eddie sets his glass down and searches my eyes.  “So, Jimmy, how have you been after all these years?”  

______________


The HAUNTING continues on September 21, 2021  


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


Freak Out, 

JLH 


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

Click the pic ⤵️ to learn more about the author of HAUNTING STURGEONS…


About JLH


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

HAUNTING STURGEONS: Chapter Five

 Previously in this blog serial...


(Click here to read Chapter Four


Now the HAUNTING-continues...

______________


Haunting sturgeons, chapter 5 by John L. Harmon

    I am retrieving a single piece of luggage from my car.  As I close the hatchback, I take another glance at my accommodations.  The three-story turn of the century home, turned motel office, stands proudly in faded blue paint.  Adjacent to the office is a long, urine yellow building of twelve rooms.  Someone has taken great care to retain the seedy, no questions asked vibe of the original business.  Maybe this is why I chose the Teeter-Totter Motel for my stay in Sturgeons.


    The manager either didn’t know me or didn’t care.  He didn’t even ask for identification when I paid cash.  I was simply handed an actual key and told to have a nice stay.  There was no mention of a continental breakfast or paying extra for late night companionship.  All the lurid stories I heard as a kid must have just been rumors. 


    I unlock the door and enter my temporary home.  The single bed centers the small room with a nightstand on the side.  A long dresser stretches out in front of the bed, topped with the essentials: a TV, microwave, and coffee-maker.  There is also a writing desk in the corner trying to add class, but it looks like a relic from a different time.  I just need a place to shower and sleep, which makes this plain room perfect.


    After locking the door, I set my duffle bag down and drop onto the bed.  I have more than physical baggage to unpack, but I’d rather just think about meeting Eddie later.  My buzzing phone interrupts my thoughts, adding to the baggage.  I knew the text message was coming, so I type a quick reply and hope it’s enough.  A few minutes pass and my phone remains silent.  I place the necessary evil face down on the nightstand and close my eyes, trying to relax.


    I open my eyes to the sound of my father’s voice shouting my name.  Eddie is already unzipping the tent as I sit up, fully awake.  We glance at each other and I feel the confusion in his eyes.  For a split second, I worry someone overheard us talking last night, but I don’t think that’s it.  There is something deeply wrong in my father’s voice.  He isn’t just shouting in anger, there’s panic mixed in with each syllable.  


    Eddie hands me my backpack as I step into the blinding light of Sunday morning.  My father immediately grabs my arm and starts dragging me across the Newcastle backyard.  Trying to yank myself free, I demand to know what’s going on.  All he says is that something has happened to Tommy, which only adds to my confusion.  I look back at Eddie and he is standing by his tent, sadness filling his 11 year-old face. 


    I open my eyes and catch my breath, wishing it was just a bad dream, but it wasn’t.  It is my memory of first hearing about Tommy’s disappearance and of the last time I would see Eddie until today.  Conflicting emotions turn inside me as I rub the tears from my eyes.  I gradually notice the shadows on the ceiling have shifted and I reach for the necessary evil.  My phone doesn’t lie at how long I’ve been asleep, causing me to sit up and glance out the window at the fading light.


    A jarring sight envelops my eyes, pulling me from the bed.  I was subconsciously aware of the reminder as I drove through town but I wasn’t ready to see it until now.  Stickler Hill stands immovable in the distance, a scattering of trees topping its highest area.  Bathed in a dim glow from the setting sun, what should be a simple hill is as impressive and menacing as ever.  Maybe more after everything that happened. 


    I step closer to the window, wondering what happened to Tommy after the sunrise breakfast.  Was he scared?  Was he in pain?  Was Tracy Newcastle the last person he saw that morning?  I imagine my brother staring expectantly at me through the other side of the glass, but it’s not time.  There is more to learn and tonight is as much for Tommy as it is for myself.  

______________


The HAUNTING continues in…


Chapter Six


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


Freak Out, 

JLH 


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

New Month!

New Eye!

New Interview! 


👁


The Collective eye
Click To Open 


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

HAUNTING STURGEONS: Chapter Four

Previously in this blog serial...


(Click here to read Chapter Three) 


Now the HAUNTING continues...

______________


Haunting Sturgeons, chapter 4, by John L. Harmon

    I am pulling up to Newcastle Body Shop, with memories of Eddie following close behind.  His father’s business is where we would come to stock up on those candy baked beans from the quarter dispenser.  We both thought those beans tasted strangely delicious mixed with the aroma of oil and metal.  It’s no wonder we had been best friends. 


    Getting out of my car, I study the intimidating grey building.  I can’t imagine anything easily destroying such a solid structure, but nothing was spared in the end.  One of the three rebuilt garage style doors is open, so I take a deep breath and start walking over the gravel lot.  My uncertain expectations rise and fall with each step.


    The scent of oil fully hits me as I enter the garage, making me almost feel 11 years-old again.  Out of instinct, I glance towards the corner by the office door.  There stands a quarter dispenser, chock full of the burnt-red candy.  I know it’s not the same machine Eddie and I would crowd around, but it doesn’t matter.  The fire engine red metal base.  The square glass container.  The coin slot.  The silver crank.  The metal flap to lift for bean retrieval.  It adds up to a good enough facsimile to cause a smile.  A smile for the happier times. 


    A dull squeaking stops me from digging into my pocket for a quarter.  I turn to the noise and watch as a man wheels himself out from under a pick-up truck.  Dressed in grease stained clothes, blue jeans and an off-white t-shirt, the man says nothing.  He just begins wiping his hands on an old rag while remaining prostrate on the roller, staring at me with dark, searching eyes. 


    “Eddie?” I inquire, even though I know because I’m right back in his backyard on that final Saturday night ten years ago.


    “Eddie, are you awake?” I asked, thinking about my afternoon with Tommy a few days before.


    “Yeah, Jimmy.  What’s up?” 


    “If you could be frisked by any police officer, who would you choose?” 


    I studied the faintly illuminated domed ceiling of the tent and wondered if I should’ve even asked.  Was the question for Eddie’s sake or for my own?  I turned my head and saw his hazy silhouette holding perfectly still, as if in deep contemplation.  After what seemed like several agonizing minutes, the vague outline of Eddie’s lips spoke a familiar name. 


    “Chief Deputy Benjamin Straker.” 


    “Oh,” I answered stupidly, understanding this is what Tommy had been hinting at, but also understanding that my brother didn’t know everything. 


    “What about you, Jimmy?  Who would you choose?” Eddie asked, turning his head to face me in the near darkness. 


    “Deputy Clyde Woodhouse,” I answered without hesitation. 


    “Cool.”  Unlike me, Eddie knew just what to say.


    After yet another round of silence, we said goodnight.  There was more we could’ve said.  More I wish I would’ve, but we drifted off to sleep.  It was the last truly restful night of my life.  


    Eddie Newcastle skillfully maneuvers his agile 21 year-old body off the roller, effectively shaking me from the past.  Dark eyes, nearly as dark as his slicked back hair, continue searching me.  He draws closer, still wiping his hands on the rag.  After ten long years, I finally hear his matured voice. 


    “You’re taller, but your hair is shorter and isn’t as blond.  Your voice has deepened, but those eyes.  As clear as Lake Pontoon, but as impenetrable as...”  Eddie trails off and glances somewhere in the distance.  I’m about to finish his sentence with Stickler Woods, when he shakes his head and beams.  “I’d know those light blue eyes anywhere, Jimmy Schroder.” 


    His expressive, dark brown eyes hide nothing, and I’m not sure whether to shake hands or hug him.  “It’s good to see you again, Eddie Newcastle.” 


    “I would hug you, but I’m a mess.”  A lopsided grin fills his face as he tucks the rag in his back pocket and firmly shakes my hand.  “So, what brings you back here, Jimmy?” 


    “My left taillight is out.” 


    Eddie’s lopsided grin turns into a wry smile, “Don’t play innocent with me, Jimmy Schroder.  You know what I mean.” 


    I know what he means because I could never fully hide things from him.  Maybe I still can’t.  “I’ve come back so I can understand what happened to my brother.” 


    His dark eyes appear to darken as he gives a quick glance at the office door.  “Let’s go take a look at that taillight now.” 


    Following his cue, I silently lead Eddie to my car.  He performs a quick examination and nods his head.  Without a word, he walks back into the garage and returns with a screwdriver and a new bulb.  He then gets down on his knees and begins his work.  I just stand there watching him, waiting. 


    Eddie focuses on the job at hand as he speaks quietly, “Meet me tonight around 8 at Gordon’s Bar.  We can talk freely there.” 


    I stare as his fingers nimbly remove the damaged bulb and replace it with a new one.  A few questions form in my mind, but there isn’t time to ask.  The bellowing voice of Harold Newcastle cuts through everything. 


    “Eddie, the Thompsons need their truck finished today!” 


    “I’ll be right there, Dad!” Eddie shouts and then reattaches the plastic cover.  He stands up, facing me with a whisper, “Gordon’s, 8 o’clock.” 


    “Ok,” I whisper as I  reach for my wallet. 


    He shakes his head.  “On the house.  Just be there.” 


    “Get your ass in gear, boy!” his father continues to bellow, stepping outside.


    “Alright already, I’m coming!”  He gives me a quick smile, “It’s really good to see you again, Jimmy.”


    Before I can respond, Eddie is tromping away from me, looking back once.  Reverse deja’vu threatens to surface, but the cold stone stare of Harold Newcastle keeps me grounded in the here and now.  His eyes, as dark as his son’s, tell me I’ve overstayed my welcome at Newcastle Body Shop.  I give a nod and get into my car.  Pulling away from the intimidating grey building and its owner, I reclaim a piece of myself that I thought was lost all those years ago. 

______________


The HAUNTING continues in...


Chapter 5


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


Freak Out, 

JLH 


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

Are you wondering what to do while waiting for another rivetinginstallment of HAUNTING STURGEONS


🤔


Click the pic below ⤵️ to explore other titles from the bent mind of John L. Harmon...


Dark Excursions, darkening sturgeons, vision bent


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

HAUNTING STURGEONS: Chapter Three

Previously in this blog serial...


(Click here to read Chapter Two) 


Now the HAUNTING continues...

______________


Haunting Sturgeons, Chapter 3, by John L. Harmon

    I am staring straight ahead, waiting for the officer to appear.  I know it will not be him, but I still expect to see the lawman, looking just like he did as he strode past my family’s car all those years ago.  A quick and efficient rap at my left causes me to flinch.  I begin rolling down the window, looking out at the beige-clad officer. 


    “Good afternoon, sir.  Do you realize your left taillight is out?” she inquires with that perfect provincial blend of friendly authority. 


    “No, I didn’t...” I give the badge a cursory glance, “...Sheriff Johns.”  Even with the higher rank and her brown hair mostly hidden underneath a beige hat, I recognize this keeper of law.


    Sheriff Johns gives me a curious expression as she asks for my license and registration.   I gather the requested documents and offer them through the window.  As she takes them from my hand, I slip back ten years. 


    We were driving around town after skipping stones at Lake Pontoon.  Tommy loved showing off the sleek power of his new red convertible.  His short blond hair barely reacted to the wind as we sped through the streets of Sturgeons, while mine blew every which way.  It was exhilarating and he didn’t even care when he was pulled over.  After receiving a speeding ticket, he gazed in the side mirror as the light-blue clad officer walked back to her vehicle. 


    “Man, I wish Leslie Johns would’ve demanded to frisk me.“ 


    I sat in the passenger seat, keeping my thoughts on police officers to myself.  “What about Tracy and Stickler Hill?” 


    “Well, I’ll tell you, Jimmy...” he gripped the steering wheel tighter, “...Sunday morning is a long ways away and it won’t be my first time.” 


    “Are you Tommy Schroder’s brother?” Sheriff Johns sudden whisper grabs me away from my memories. 


    “Yes,” I answer cautiously.  “Is that a problem?” 


    “No,” she again whispers and briefly chuckles, continuing at a normal volume.  “No, not at all.  We just don’t see many returns these days.  So, what brings you back to Sturgeons?” 


    I flash a relaxed smile, like Tommy always did in these situations, “It was just finally time to visit a familiar face or two.” 


    The Sheriff looks at my license and then into my eyes.  I see her hesitation as she takes one more glance at my license before returning the documents.  “I’ll let this slide on one condition, Jimmy.  You need to drive directly to Newcastle Body Shop and get that taillight taken care of.” 


    “It’s a deal, Sheriff Johns.  Is it still in the same location?”


    “Yes,” she answers, giving my car a quick pat.  “Now you have a nice visit and welcome home, Jimmy Schroder.”


    Unlike Tommy, I don’t ogle the keeper of law as she returns to her vehicle.  Instead, I take a deep breath and put the car in gear.  Pulling away from first contact, I imagine my brother smirking beside me as Newcastle Body Shop draws me deeper into Sturgeons. 

______________


The HAUNTING continues in...


Chapter Four

 


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


Freak Out, 

JLH 


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

Pssst...over here...


I managed to squeeze a “freakboy on film” in between HS chapters.  So click the pic ⤵️ to experience my view of an Andy Milligan masterpiece...


Nightbirds


Saturday, August 21, 2021

freakboy on film: NIGHTBIRDS (1970)

What the hell has happened to me?  I’ve been reviewing cheesy ‘80’s flicks and starting a blog serial instead of compulsively blogging about Andy Milligan films!  Have I taken ill or developed a less freaky filmic taste?  Fear not!  My Andy Milligan obsession is still pumping and may have even jumped to a new level! 


I watched BLOOD (1973) last month on Tubi.  This shorter film was an enjoyably crazy mash-up of werewolves, vampires and man-eating plants, with an ending that made me grin despite knowing (hoping) exactly what was coming.  I also ordered a Region-Free DVD of NIGHTBIRDS from a sketchy website.  Don’t worry, I used a Visa gift card, but it was a waste of time.  The order didn’t go through, which left me with a problem.  How do I watch a film that I’m salivating to experience when it’s not streaming anywhere and not legitimately available as a Region 1 disc? 


Well, this freakboy threw caution to the wind and ordered a Region 2 Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack and gave the DVD a spin on my Region 1 player.  No luck there but I wasn’t surprised.  (Interesting side note, my dad’s player recognized the disc as a DVD but the picture flipped like an old-time TV set.)  Proving I’m not a quitter when it comes to something I am obsessing over, I used some of my stimulus money to order a Region Free DVD player (ARAFUNA) for around $30.  The contraption arrived and hooked up like a Region 1 DVD player and had a standard U.S. electrical plug.  It’s such a tiny thing that I am surprised it works at all, but it does.  So, I finally watched Andy Milligan’s NIGHTBIRDS...


The DVD cover of Andy Milligan’s NIGHTBIRDS.  Dink & Dee stand gazing into darkness
written & directed by Andy Milligan 

I feel like a vampire in the sunlight when you smile.” - Dee 


NIGHTBIRDS was somehow both everything I expected and nothing like I expected.  There is the usual Andy Milligan craziness with eccentric characters, quirky-raw dialogue and subplots that leave you scratching your head.  On the flip side is a deadly seriousness that quietly slips in and builds tension until the startling conclusion.  


Two young fair haired people named Dink & Dee
NOT Dinkel & Cheryl from DARK EXCURSIONS

Dink is a 20 year-old man living rough on the streets when a woman named Dee swoops in to help.  She takes him to her small, dingy flat where a relationship soon forms.  They consider the squalid living conditions their castle, a safe place to be themselves with one another.  Slowly but steadily, the outside world begins seeping in between Dink and Dee, throwing their relationship off balance from kindness to controlling.  As the castle begins to metaphorically crumble from pain and cruelty, who will be left standing?  It’s an Andy Milligan film, so the chances aren’t very good for anyone.


Dink & Dee lying on the dirty floor
Hold on tight 

Berwick Kaler exudes a damaged innocence in Dink, which makes it believable that Dee would trust him.  Julie Shaw crackles with underlying energy as Dee, which makes it easy to see why Dink would be attracted to her.  I must add that Elaine Shore as Dink’s friend Mabel brings a bittersweet eccentricity to the mix.  Throw in Bill Clancy as Dee’s suspiciously demanding landlord Ginger and this emotionally damaged tableau is complete. 


Movie poster for NIGHTBIRDS

NIGHTBIRDS is a bridge between the claustrophobic drama of VAPORS and the gutter theatrical of FLESHPOT ON 42nd STREET Filmed in stark black & white, NIGHTBIRDS takes an unflinching look at how we hurt the ones we allegedly love.  It’s almost like a horror film, but instead of vampires or werewolves, reality is the monster out to get us.  The story is sometimes hard to watch, especially scenes involving a real pigeon, but it’s a must for Andy Milligan devotees.  


The little region free DVD player with NIGHTBIRDS and other Andy Milligan dvds
Oops, I forgot...

In conclusion, I have no regrets with my purchases.  The ARAFUNA Region Free DVD Player is easy for me to use and NIGHTBIRDS has pecked its way beneath my mind-skin.  Contrary to what I’ve said before, this London-filmed motion picture may be Andy Milligan’s masterpiece.  He visually finds beauty in despair and fuels the story with subtle intensity.  So, if you enjoy something uncomfortably different, and you can locate a copy, I believe NIGHTBIRDS is worth your time and effort. 


The DVD player remote sitting on the dvd of nightbirds
...the remote!

(Side Note: The late Andy Milligan is still not through with me.  Yes, that means more are coming.😉)


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


Freak Out, 

JLH 


P.S.  Click the pic below ⤵️ to release a different NIGHT BIRD...


Night bird, a poem by John L. Harmon

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

Click a pic ⤵️ to view other MILLIGAN posts...


Vapors

Seeds of sin

Fleshpot on 42nd street