Become a Fan
By Jerry Bolton
Sunday, September 01, 2013
Rated "PG" by the Author.
If you have ever felt as if your whole world was topsy-turvy and everything you did to try to return to normal was met with bizarre reactions, you might recognize someone like Percy Nullford.
Percy Nullford stared into the cracked, hepatitis-yellow mirror and wasn't a bit surprised to not recognize the man staring back at him. He stared at the unfamiliar person in the mirror as though he expected him to speak. Something like, "Hey, Percy, what you doin' checking me out, you ought to be down on your hands and knees looking under your bed. Might be surprised to find more than dust bunnies."
Percy cringed. Things which lurked under beds had spooked him since childhood. Doreen, his dear sainted mother always said if he didn't get quiet and go to sleep the bogyman that slept under his bed would come out and eat him. Well, yes, Percy knew that a real-life bogyman wasn't under his bed. He knew that. Still. His mother, who was so sweet in almost every other way, performed what he considered a despicable, evil act by leaving the impression of the monster in his mind even into adulthood.
It was silly, he knew, still there was that lingering feeling that one really never knew what lurked in the darkness under their beds, now did they? I mean, if it is dark and that is what you are looking at you may not see because darkness is all you can see. Sometimes Percy felt that the darkness was worse that what he imagined it hid. Sometimes, Percy could feel the darkness engulfing him, smothering his will, drenching him with its mercurial, unpredictable, dark form.
Well, he wasn't going to let it bother him. He was, after all, a sixty-four-year-old grown man who damn well was his own man, thank you very much. He ran his hand over his tar-black hair, thank you Grecian Formula 44, brushed the lint off his Haggar Slacks, and walked to the door and opened it. He hesitated for a moment, knowing what his dear mother would say.
"Don't forget to put on clean underwear, you never know when you're going to have an accident and . . ." He knew she wasn't really saying those words, just like he knew the bogyman wasn't real. She mother had been dead for six years, killed as she walked into the street in front of the bread truck. Wouldn't you know, her underwear she'd put on before she left the house was soiled by the time they got her to the hospital. She'd crapped in them after she was flattened her into the pavement. Still. He did hear her voice. And he did see the stranger in the mirror. And he wasn't absolutely, one hundred percent positive that there really wasn't a bogymen under his bed. He opened the door and walked out of the house.
Percy found himself in the middle of a bizarre park, not on the sidewalk in front of his house like he should have been. A panhandler siddled up to him. Percy was about to tell him to get lost when the man, reeking of soured wine, grabbed the front of his shirt and shoved his face inches from his. "Whot ya got to give 'em?" Then he let him go and walked down the sidewalk laughing crazily.
Percy took a careful step because the ground was covered with empty beer cans, sandwich wrappers, and prophylactics alerting him that this was not your run of the mill park. It was probably a homosexual cruising parks. The smell of fresh semen in the air, pungent and obscene added to that assumption. He began walking away. As confirming his suspicions a wisp of a boy of about seventeen with arched eyebrows and much too much makeup on his face, holding hands with a much older man, strolled by. He spoke to Percy without slowing down, "Got anything to give them, sweetie?"
Percy lurched away, their girlish laughter mingling with all the rank smells and the oppressive August heat. As he walked down the sidewalk of the unfamiliar park he found there was more to it than he thought. It was a haven for soapbox orators and pseudo-preachers. Each of the men--and they were all men--spaced irregularly about the walkway, had small groups of attentive listeners, hecklers, for the most part, vicious ones at that, throwing a bit of commentary back to the speakers in the form of insults and laughter. It was a grotesque exercise in freedom of speech. Each narrator shouting at the top of his lungs in a futile attempt to drown out his detractors.
"Heathens! Sinful degenerate man, you don't have long left to repent. Give your sorry old soul to Merciful Jay-sus today and be among the chosen when Armageddon arrives," roared the thunderous voice of a heavyset, florid-faced preacher pointing a nicotine-stained, stubby finger toward Percy.
"Hah! Take a flying leap, faggot," somebody called from the shadows of a giant elm tree.
"Aw, you ain't nothing but an ole pork chop hustler. Go on back to whar you come from you crazy ole loon."
But the voices of descent could not drown him out.
"YOU!" the rumpled roly-poly man screamed over his attackers, "Heathen! Forsake your evil ways and come to the bosom of Abraham, heal thineself!"
Amid insane laughter, hoots, and catcalls, Percy stumbled toward a well-worn path leading into a line of formidable trees surrounding the park. Soon he was inside the tree line, which seemed to fill the bill as a line of demarcation. When he stepped into the void beyond he found himself on a familiar, but curious road. It was familiar everything had happened so quickly had feelings of fright as he stopped and tried to come to grips with what was happening
He cocked an ear, listening for . . . anything . . . something that would tell him he wasn't alone. But there was no sound, not even from the preachers and hecklers. It was as if they had never been there. He stopped and began to tremble slightly when he realized that the road was one way. He took a tentative step and turned to look where he had been. The step, which should have made an impression on the soft layer of dust, was not there. The trembling became more pronounced as he grasped the truth, every time he took a step that much of the road behind him disappeared. The park was nowhere in sight and Percy Nullford was scared shitless.
A whitish film of fog drifted menacingly toward him and he took a step back as though it meant him harm. He stood, foot lifted in the air like a meditating crane because there was nowhere behind him to put his foot down. He forced himself to take another step forward. "Silly," he muttered, shaking off fear like a canine shakes off water and continued slowly down the road.
As he walked briskly through the low-lying fog moans and sobs could be heard. He wasn't a bit surprised to realize that after the fog disappeared he was standing beside a naked woman and not only naked but she was intensely sensual.
"I am every woman, who do you want me to be for you? And what do you have to give to me for that pleasure?"
"Huh?" He caught her scent and it was like a bountiful field of new mown clover. A whore? Here on this god-forsaken road? She stretched her arms toward Percy, her breasts pendulous, heavy; hanging suspended as if an invisible bra were attached to them.
He soon became aware that he wasn't impotent as he thought he was for months. His mouth sought her breasts. Oh, yes, they were spongy and warm and he nestled his head between them before seeking out a rigid, light-brown nipple. As he sucked, tongued, made love to her breasts she began to tremble and talk in tongues, and then, floated away from him toward the ghostly region he had just come from. Before disappearing into the nether-void that was his yesterdays she cackled like a Shakespearean witch, saying, "This is just a test, but you will have to have something for the rest."
Percy Nullford was very thirsty. He trod down the familiar road looking for water. He wanted to leave the road but he there was no way he could. Although the road was familiar things looked abnormal in the most peculiar way. The road itself was . . . spongy like the whore's breasts and the dust that sprang up around his feet when he took a step settled back into place as though he had never been there. There was no curb, ditch, or anything else to distinguish it. It was just a little road and the lack of noise was chilling. Even his footsteps made muted sounds, soft, squishy sounds like walking in a bog.
He followed the road because he had no choice. He couldn't return from where he had come from because the trail leading to it had disappeared. There was only the dusty road calling him onward, forever onward. After going around a sharp turn he saw a bright red house. The front of the house abutted against the road. There was no yard to cross to gain entrance. Percy would not have to leave the road to enter it. And enter it he did because the door was open and he could make out a woman of about forty in the kitchen, head tied up in a scarf, beckoning him.
The house was furnished in current style. In the living room a dominating 46-inch Plasma TV hung on the wall. Everything looked like it had just come out of a showroom. Even so, Percy got the feeling that it was all, little by little, turning to dust, like him, flesh to bone to rot and decay.
"Sit," she said, pointing a ladle dripping something red toward a sofa which looked uncomfortable. He sat and wasn't surprised to feel springs poking through its cushion. It seemed new like everything else but on closer inspection it appeared that someone had just placed a plastic replica of a new sofa over the old one in order to deceive. The instantly recognizable whiff of urine, animal or human, seeped into his nostrils, merging with the smell of spaghetti sauce wafting from the kitchen. She bent over a sink piled high with dirty dishes. A short hallway led to what he presumed was bedrooms; one bath, he guessed.
"What you got?"
"Huh?" Percy was jerked from his musing. "What'd you say, Lady?"
"You supposed to give me something."
"You don't know?"
"Can't leave here without you giving it up."
"What is it you want?"
She stared at him, arms crossed and covered with soap suds.
"Where does this road lead to, can you tell me that?"
A grin split her face and she cackled, reminiscent of the naked woman beside the road. "Can't say, but you'll know by the by."
Percy rose to leave.
"Stop! You have to give it to me before you can leave here, Percy Nullford."
"Damnit, I don't know what I'm supposed to give you, woman. What are you talking about?"
The woman's eyes became two orbs of the largest oxblood-red eyes he had ever seen. She scrunched up her face and when she began to wail Percy had a violent, ripping sensation inside his chest which traveled up into his head, giving him such intense, throbbing pain that he puked all over the brand new baby-blue carpet. He tried to scream but couldn't. Putting his hands out he braced against the wall believing he was dying.
"It's always worse if I have to take it. You can go now," her eyes and face were back to normal and so was Percy. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and scurried through the door and back on the road. He wasn't surprised to see the house dissolving into nothing, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. He was so overcome with fear for the second time that day his knees buckled beneath him and he plopped down in the middle of the road.
His chest had a hollow, empty feeling. It didn't hurt, exactly, it was just . . . hollow. As he sat there he tried to make sense of what was happening. He was still alive. He pinched his cheek. Hard. See! He felt pain. Dead people couldn't feel pain. Could they? Percy Nullford was scared out of his wits. He did not know where he was nor how he got there nor the all-important question, why was he there? He decided to talk to himself. Therapy. Couldn't hurt.
"Who are you?"
"Where do you live?"
"In the city."
"Uh, you know; the city.
"No I don't know, what city?"
"Quit doing that."
"I just want to know a little about you, is that too much to ask? How can I help you of I don't know about you?"
"You know who I am because you are me.
"Why are you here?"
Aggravated, he pushed himself upright and began yet another lonely trek down the road. A road he was beginning to tire of. And with everybody wanting him to give up something to them. What that was he had no clue.
As he trudged on people accosted him at every turn asking him the same question over and over, what did he have to give them? When he said no he received the same painful sensation within his chest. Each time was worse than the last time and it was beginning to really put some bad hurting on him. Once he attempted to turn around and go back from where he had come but when he took a step in that direction it was as though he were enveloped in a vat of glutinous liquid. He couldn't breathe and he had no choice but continue down the dusty road.
Something was up ahead. In the middle of the road. The closer he got the better he could make out what it was. A very old man, white whiskers flowing to the ground, sat upon a throne-like chair and he held what looked like one of those long sticks sheepherders carry around. In the other wrinkled old hand he held a bowl. As Percy approached him he anticipated his words.
"What have you got for me?"
The man had a mystical, ancient aura about him and Percy felt in awe of the frail old man, thereby giving him more deference than the others. "Sir . . . Mister . . . uh, I wish I did have something. What I mean is I wish I knew what you were talking about. If I did I would gladly give it to you. What? Am I supposed to confess my sins? What? Please, sir, tell me what I must do to get off of this road."
"You are no different than so many of your kind," the man spoke softly. "We care not about your sins, you silly, puny man. Those have already been recorded in the book. What we need from you are your virtues, but sadly I see that you have none to give. We have to have absolutely the last detail of your virtues, and then, and only then, will you know which road you will be taking." He nodded behind him to the fork in the road. Then, "What few virtues you did have, have been taken from you. Still, there must some virtue residue left, so . . ."
The pain inside Percy was horrendous and he fainted from agony. When he awoke things had changed. The pain was not located in his chest anymore but his neck and his whole head seemed to be bursting.
Percy closed his eyes to what had become the trappings of his own personal version of Hades. He found that he was so weary, and even as he drifted into mind-numbing, painful sleep he found that he couldn't breathe hadn't been able to breathe and he knew that this was yet one more twisty turn of the dusty road.
+ + + + + + + + + +
"They say the spinal cord is snapped so quick they never feel a thing."
"Seems to me he got off better'n he should have for pushing his mother in front of that bread truck."
The rope creaked as the hooded body swayed gently, awaiting for those whose job it was to cut it down and give it a proper burial
Site: The Late Great God
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|Reviewed by Vivian Dawson
|To use a "black" pen when working
puzzles..no erasers allowed..Thank
You, Jerry, for this write
|Reviewed by Annabel Sheila
|I've said it over and over...you are a masterful story teller...Wow! Read this last night before I retired to dreamland...mistake! giggle
|Reviewed by Budd Nelson
|such a well written story my friend, i really liked this a great deal
|Reviewed by Lark Pogue
|Wow! Wow! This makes you think, and the ending was a total surprise. Good job, Jerry.
|Reviewed by Ronald Hull
|A whole lot of imagination… and experience in such matters. A very nice try at the few seconds it takes to be properly hung.
I believe that if you are hung improperly, you have to choke to death. On the other hand, from experience, the snapping of the spinal cord does not kill, it just leaves one the strange feeling of a head suspended in space. And, I have no information or experience with how long it takes people to die during hanging, but people with severed spinal cords can live for a very long time until their brain no longer has oxygen-rich blood.
The story could use a good editing. While it is very well written, the few errors are very glaring and could be easily corrected. I don't see the connection between the title and the story.
|Reviewed by Jane Noponen Perinacci
|Wow! At first I thought Percy had stepped into the Twilight Zone or had gone insane and was having hallucinations. I believe he saw hell but thanks to "some virtue residue left,.....", I believe he was directed to the path to heaven.