Rants, raves, fiction, and laughs

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Why, she works at a Nail Salon, Watson..."

Attention Mystery writers!
I had a total Sherlock Holmes moment yesterday at the nail salon that I thought I might as well share, and that is this:
Nail Salon employee's have very distinctive nails.

*Their feet are always impeccable; they tend to wear flipflops in the coolest of weather, so as not to smudge their toe polish which is reapplied frequently and flawlessly, sometimes with rhinestone adornment.

*Their HANDS, however are usually very plain and always bare and devoid of polish. Their cuticles are trimmed, and their nails are neat and somewhat dry and yellow owing to (I assume) frequent exposure to polish remover.

*The thumbnail of the DOMINANT hand is curiously flat and the underside of the thumbnail is always spattered with many colours of polish. This is because, when their clients' polish tends to pool near the nail bed, they will correct this with a quick application of the thumbnail. This happens so frequently, that they almost never attempt to clean the polish, possibly that at some point it is assumed it will NEVER come off.

Possibly not important, but there if you need it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My 9-11 story

By Monica Marier

Okay, I don't think I've really written this down before, so I'm going to record it as accurately as I can.

On September 11th 2001, I was an Art Student at George Mason University in Northern Virginia. I was on financial aide so I worked mornings and some afternoons in the Music Department as a desk-monkey, taking messages and stuffing envelopes. I walked into the office that morning, like it was any other day. I plopped down my bookbag and got out my copy of Dracula that I was reading for the billionth time. It was then that I heard Tammy, my boss on the phone talking to someone in a frantic voice.

"Calm down, Patricia! What are you talking about? You just saw a plane crash? What?"

Tammy put down the phone, her face white, and said to no one in particular.
"Dr. Miller said she just saw a plane crash into the Pentagon from her balcony."

We were gobsmacked.
What was going on?

We ran to the radio at the back of the office and switched it on. We stood like stunned cattle listening to the NPR report that terrorists had hijacked a plane and crashed it into the pentagon. Then I heard that the twin towers were gone too.

I felt cold and numb all over. This couldn't be happening. This wasn't happening. This was some plot lifted out of a Keanu Reeves action film. This stuff didn't happen in real life.

It was when I heard that there was a bomb at the State Department that I lost it. My dad worked at the State Department. I later found out it was a false alarm, but at the time I was already raw with fear. I burst into blubbering tears until Tammy quietly suggested I go back to my dorm.

I didn't though. I walked to the Johnson Centre, where TV's had been wheeled out, and I stared tear-stained as the footage from the Twin Towers crash was playing on a continuous loop. I saw it hit over and over hurting me like a sharp blow to the chest. My room didn't have a TV all day I stared in dumb horror at the screens as they became available. I didn't eat lunch. I picked numbly at my dinner as the news counted more and more deaths that day, and a plane downed in Pennsylvania.

As it got dark later that evening, I stumbled back to the dorm and stumbled upon a group of people gathered around a statue of George Mason, their heads bowed in prayer. I was only a lapsed Catholic at the time, but I felt the urge to join in that circle. Two hands gladly grasped mine, damp with the effort of getting through that day. We prayed to God to give us strength that day. We prayed for the dead. We prayed for protection from death that everyone felt could strike us at any moment.
We were terrified.

As the circle broke up, we found ourselves clinging to small groups as we walked back to our respective dorms. We were all strangers to each other, yet we sought comfort in each other's company, making small talk as we walked back to our spartan rooms. I called my boyfriend (my future husband) and tried to make sense of it all.

The next day, we went to class. Two of my teachers were practicing Muslims and didn't come to school that day out of fear. We used the class period to write them a letter about how much we still appreciated them.When they came back the next week we hugged them and cried.

As people became able to talk about the event, I was amazed to discover that many of my friends' parents (who all worked in the city and Pentagon) had all had amazing coincidences that kept them from the Pentagon that day. One had been running late due to a flat tire. One had decided to go out for a coffee run. One who had an office on the side that was demolished had been asked to visit a colleague on the other side of the building. One had simply felt the urge to play hooky that day and called in sick.

I actually don't remember much of the rest of that semester. For three months I seemed to be in a walking dream. I only remembered that in my mother's house (which was right under the flight path for Dulles Airport) that every time I heard a plane engine overhead, I would tremble all over.

~Monica Marier.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Home Sweet Home

By Monica Marier

“…And then what happened?” asked Kathy.

Celia’s shoulders hunched as she stifled a full-body shudder. With tears in her eyes and a trembling voice she looked up into the bright lights.

“We… uh… we kept feeling a presence. An evil presence that we knew immediately wanted us out. We… sorry…” Celia broke down and Kathy put a comforting hand on her shoulder. Celia rocked on the snow white couch and fanned her face.

“I’m fine, I’m fine. Then things started happening. We heard footsteps downstairs at night, when we checked on them, everyone was still in bed. The radio would randomly switch on and play music— it was always music from the 30’s. We’d feel cold spots. Strange stains would appear in the wallpaper and would be gone the next morning. Then… it started attacking the kids.”

Celia looked away from Kathy as she spoke, her eyes focusing on her husband standing nearby.

 “My youngest would wake up with strange bruises and scratches all over him. My husband would wake up to find me hovering over the bed. Blood dripped down the walls… Finally we tried to leave… but it wouldn’t let us.”

“But you’re here now.”

“Not for long anyway. We’re still prisoners of the house to this day.”

Kathy looked away from Celia finally and said in a cheerful clear voice.

“Celia Lintzer’s book ‘The Ghost in an American Dream’ is on the top best-seller list for the twentieth week, and Warner Brothers has greenlit the movie version. Are you excited?”

Celia bravely dried her tears and nodded, seemingly recovered. “Yes, the studio has just signed Renee Zelwiger to play my part. I think it’s slated to come out fall next year.”

“Chilling stuff,” said Kathy with a botox-numbed mug to the camera. “Well, just for the sake of argument, what’s your reaction to people who insist that this is all an elaborate hoax? That there’s no evidence of your house being built over the graves of drowned witches that the reported events have no eyewitness other than yourself, and that the priest you said blessed the house and the detective you hired claim to never have met you?”

Celia’s smile froze a little and a mad glint sparked into her eyes, but she took a deep breath and settled into the white chintz again.  “Well, that’s simply not true. I don’t blame the Catholic Church for wanting to cover up what proved to be a botched exorcism rite, and our governor has made it abundantly clear that they don’t want this event to sully the town’s reputation. We are in a housing crisis, after all. I’m sure the price of homes would drop if any potential buyers knew…” Celia dissolved into blubbering sobs again. “…what we went through. And then some might simply be lying out of fear,” she added quietly.

“You’re of course referring to the mysterious accidents that befell the psychic team that investigated the house,” said Kathy.

“Smothered in a fire,” said Celia Lugubriously. “Yes the house took its revenge on them.”

“Yes, but the psychics supposedly found no paranormal activity in the house,” said Kathy pointedly.

“They found…” said Celia, “That the only thing to have survived the fire was a copy of my book.”

“And then there was the man who wrote a book exposing the house’s activity as a hoax; he died before his book was published,” said Kathy.

“And so did the owner executive of the publishing company,” said Celia, wiping away another tear. “They were in the same car, when it burst into flames. And the only thing that wasn’t destroyed in the fire…”

“…Was a copy of your book,” finished Kathy with a showy shudder.

“I still suffer nightmares from the whole experience, and I only pray that the house doesn’t come for me next.” Celia shrank into a ball and Kathy dutifully comforted her. She leant next to Celia and whispered, “You’re running us over, shut up.”

“Well thanks for coming on our show, Celia,” said Kathy in her stage voice. “Cathy’s book is available in all major book retailers. We’ll be right back!”

The camera man made a gesture and Celia got up from the couch with a cold nod to Kathy and met her husband, Bill, near the edge of the sound stage.

“Well that went well,” said Bill in a bored voice. “Now hurry up, we have to pack for our flight for New York.”

“Stupid bitch,” said Celia. “I know exactly what she was trying to do.”
“Maybe the rumors of fire-related deaths were a bit much,” said Bill.
“You told me to say fire,” accused Celia in a low voice. “You said the fire thing tied it altogether so nicely. Besides, no one ever checks that crap.”
“Well Raimi called and said he wanted to make a few artistic changes to the movie.”
“If he turns me into a sobbing doormat, I’m going to shove that script up his ass,” said Celia stabbing at the air with her keys.

 They sat in the Lexus and exchanged a tiny grin.
“Who could ever think you’re a doormat, Cece?” said Bill and they exchanged a sterile kiss.

They walked through the wide door of the blue Dutch Colonial and checked their watches. The kids would be at the nanny’s until she dropped them off again at 7.

“Do you want to have sex?” asked Celia.
“Why?” asked Bill in mild surprise. They hadn’t slept next to each other for over three years now.
“I’m bored,” said Kathy with a shrug.
“Sure,” said Bill, throwing his coat on the floor. He then thought better of it and hung the designer leather jacket up on a hanger before he joined Kathy. When he got upstairs he saw her standing in her underwear staring at the bed. She was white and shaking, her shirt still half-off. Bill looked where she was staring and froze.

The bed was bleeding.

The ground began to tremble as the crucifix on the wall (bought shortly before the psychics showed up, just for the look of things) rotated on its nail until it was head down. They stepped away from the tide of blood as it approached them.
“I don’t understand this,” said Celia in a shaking voice. “It’s not real. None of it’s real.”
“Someone is playing a prank on us,” said Bill in a husky voice.
A voice came out of the heating duct that seemed to vibrate them from inside.

“I am very dissappointed,” it said.

“It can’t be true! I don’t believe it’s true!!” shrieked Celia tearing at her hair as the blood lapped at her toes. “Who’s doing this?”
“THE HOUSE IS DOING IT!” cried Bill and they both knew it was true. “But that’s impossible! It’s not haunted! It’s never been haunted! There’s no such thing!”
The radio switched on and played Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.”
A wave of blood washed over Bill and he was gone, there was only his white hand sinking into what seemed a bottomless sea of crimson.
“WHY?!” shouted Celia. “Why are you doing this?” she shouted at the ceiling as the radio rose to a deafening volume.

Celia felt a cold hand on her shoulder and feeling numb, she turned around. She saw closet door as it yawned open and black rotted hands, dripping with ichor dragged her into the darkness. Before she felt her mind slipping away she felt a voice in the dark space behind her eyeballs.

“You shouldn’t have lied,” it said “Houses have feelings too.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School

Monica IRL
by Monica Marier

There’s nothing quite so jarring to a child as being brutally torn from the warm comforting womb of kindergarten to be dumped in the grey antiseptic hell that is First Grade. I remember walking into the classroom and noting how grey everything was. Of course, things were always grey in 1987 Warsaw , the coal dust clouds in the air turned everything in the city into shades of mud and charcoal, but this room really was grey and I longed for my Kindergarten classroom. The cheerless walls full of rules for spelling and math replaced the happy pictures of teddies and children playing. The cold grey linoleum replaced the soft, if somewhat stained, red carpet. Instead of group tables that I shared with the classmates I loved, there were only grey metal desks of solitude.

I shivered in my Kangaroo high-tops as I entered. There was no love, no mercy, no escape. A thin brisk woman ushered us into the class. Her lips were pinched and pruney, and they did not smile at us. She patted her cropped wiry hair which stood up on her head like a sergeant’s beret.
“Welcome back to school, first graders. I am your teacher. My name is Mrs. Virginia Fünke.”
I’m not kidding. That was her name.

Even as a kid I knew this was an absurd name, and under other circumstances I would have laughed a good hour over it. But there was no titter of giggles, no one even cracked a smile. We were as sober and scared as if she had just said, “I am Satan, Prince of Darkness.”

“And this is our class aide, Mr. Lowe,” she continued gesturing to the back of the room.

The ground shook as suddenly from the dark recesses of the classroom came a cyclopean nightmare. A six foot seven giant of a man made of solid muscle. His beefy face was red, his lips screwed into a frown.  He glared at us through tinted glasses in aviator frames as the fluorescent lights glinted on his sparsely-covered head.

HULLO,” he barked in a deep Australian accent. “I'M MISTER LOWE.

Those of us with dry pants gazed up in abject terror. He seemed to sense this for his frown deepened and he said no more. Mrs. Fünke called the role but most of us had forgotten our names by now and had to be asked twice.

“Now look at the worksheet on your desk,” Mrs. Fünke said in her clipped tones.

We looked down at a black and white Xerox. It was supposed to be a jolly picture of a circus train, each train containing happy animals or something. The joy was sucked out, however, by the dingy light filtering through the barred windows.

“Fill in the train cars with the alphabet,” said Mrs. Fünke, and we scrambled for our pencil boxes, frantic to obey her.

“… in pen,” she added.

The world stopped dead.

In pen? Was she serious? Pen was—well it was indelible! Pen was an accident waiting to happen. Most of us, at this point had never even been allowed to wield one let alone do school work with one.

With shaking fingers I pulled out my standard issue ballpoint pen and pulled the cap off. The unfamiliar smell of cheap ink turned my stomach as my chubby fingers gripped the implement. Slowly, with the care of a jeweler cutting a priceless diamond, I dug the pen into the paper. I could feel Mr. Lowe staring at me, and knew instinctively (quite accurately I might add) that he was waiting for an excuse to pounce. After I completed an uppercase and lowercase “Aa” I allowed myself to breathe.

The “Bb” and the “Cc” came easier and by the “Ff” I’d hit my stride. I was beginning to ignore the cold sweat on my neck and the piercing eyes of Mr. Lowe as they glinted behind his dark glasses, watching our every movement. I had just finished the “Zz” when I realized with a horrible shudder that something was wrong. There was an extra box at the end. Feeling feverish I searched the worksheet and discovered to my horror that I had completely skipped the letter “M.” How did I miss “M”? It was the first letter of my name, for God’s sake! But there it was,” Ll…Nn…Oo,” permanently scribed in noxious blue ink. I saw a shadow loom over my desk and I my insides froze. Fearing it was the titanic Mr. Lowe, I hunched up, trying to make myself small and unappetizing.

“How are we getting on?” came Mrs. Fünke’s low voice over my head. I felt only a little relieved. I looked up into her gimlet stare and knew I was dead woman.

I umsle bumble num,” I stammered in a barely perceptible voice.

“What was that?” she asked coldly.

“I made a mistake, see?” I confessed, showing her the extra box and the missing “M”.

“I see,” said Mrs. Fünke eyeing my childish scrawls critically. “I guess you’ll just have to do it again.”

She then placed a new blank sheet on my desk and I felt her words burn me.


I felt tears rising in my eyes and knew there was no holding them back. My lip trembled and my nose ran as my face prickled and stung. Then the damn broke. Wet hot tears rolled down my face, contorted with the effort of not making a sound, and splashed onto the virgin paper. Despite my efforts, little whimpers escaped my lips, alerting my classmates to my predicament. Most were probably sympathetic, but all I could hear was the whispers of my hated nickname that I earned last year.

Crybaby. Look crybaby is crying. Teacher made crybaby cry.

I went blind at that point, the tears blurring everything around me as I stared fixedly at my desk. The next thing I could hear was Mr. Lowe looming over me and roaring: “STOP CRYIN’! FOR GOD’S SAKE, GIRL! STOP CRYIN’!”

I remember very little of the rest of that day. I only remember that the rest of the year was just as awful and as was the longing I felt for Kind Miss Szewicki and her Kindergarten classroom.

This entire memory flashed into life again as I took my trembling son to meet his first grade teacher. Granted, it wasn’t so bleak as my old classroom; there were toys and paint pots and pictures of Winnie the Pooh. But there were also grey walls and grey floors and solitary grey desks.

My son whimpered next to me. “I don’t like it. It’s scary here.”

“It will be fine. There’s nothing awful about first grade,” I lied.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reverse Sherlocking

After watching Sherlock Holmes for a while, I find that I start doing his "intense scrutiny" of my surroundings trying to come up with similar results. I wander around my kitchen analyzing myself and thinking, "what does this room say about me?"

Of course it's all nonsense. It only works if you already know the person's story, and then find little ways to reveal it. A.C. Doyle used this method to give us a short amount of exposition without being boring, a tremendous feat, and "wow" us with Sherlock's insane genius.

Still it's a fun literary exercise, that I now put to you. Once in a while, walk around your house thinking, "what does this room say about me?" Here's what I came up with after a few minutes. Of course you have to hear it in Cumberbatch's or Brett's voice.

* Cereal boxes of no consistent size or brand, which means you shop the sales, you're either saving money or hard up, judging by the state of your cookware, hard-used and nearly broken, I'd say it was the latter.

*Coffee, same thing, different sizes, different brands, but I notice you have 3 cannisters in your pantry, which makes you an addict. It's a new coffee maker, but a very cheap one, which means you go through a lot of them.You also... spill a lot as you walk, not a morning person, are you?

*There's dust on the lip of the piano cover, but not on the top, which means you leave it up all the times... but there's very little dust build up on the middle keys which means you play regularly. The music books lying around have been there for a few days, so one of you reads music, and someone else doesn't. Judging by the state of the books the difficulty level, and the length of your fingernails, I'd say that you play regularly but you can't read music. Your husband reads, but he doesn't play often.

*Your wedding portrait is resting on the piano under a sheaf of leaves... trouble in paradise? Oh, No! See here, you've got the mollys and the nails and— my word— even a level and a T-sqaure out—all covered in dust too. You obviously mean to hang the painting, but are afraid that you won't like how it's hung and mean to do a proper job of it it you ever get around to it, and perhaps when the children are in school

*Yes you have two children, close in age, a boy and a girl. See you have two of all the gender-neutral toys, hula hoops, art pads, beach buckets (how was your trip to the Outer Banks, by the way?). With smaller children, you have to have two pf everything to avoid rows. Yet you only have one doll and one water pistol, which means different genders. Also the gender neutral items tend to have one primary colour and one pastel—does your daughter actually like pink, or do you just get pink not to confuse it with the boy's.

*You have a million little house-hold tasks which you are waiting on until the house it free during the day, but let's face it, if you were any sort of a go-getter you would have done the dishes this morning. Am I right?