Rubber Face

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The first time Brock wore a rubber mask for Halloween was when he was five-years-old. He didn’t want to take it off after trick-or-treating so his patient parents compromised and let him sleep in it.

That’s where it started.

After that he insisted on wanting to wear a rubber mask during the day. He couldn’t during school, but the minute the last bell rang he’d pull his rubber mask out of his backpack and put it on. Needless to say, this caught the attention of a lot of people. Children and adults alike.

It was a good thing Brock was a husky kid, because he constantly faced bullies who tried to take his mask away from him. One day two boys jumped him just outside the school grounds. In the tussle one of the boys peeled off the mask he just put on. He fought so furiously that they backed off and left his rubber mask on the ground.

In school, Brock was a shy guy. He always sat in the rear of the classroom. He knew a few of his fellow students by name, but had no friends. Over his school years he got use to eating alone in the school cafeteria. He was content reading the latest issue of MAD magazine at lunch.

His parents didn’t really know how to cope with his obsession. They sent him to a child psychologist numerous times before he entered high school. He always came across, in those sessions, as perfectly normal…with the exception of his unusual attachment to rubber masks. Various theories were discussed, but no one seemed able to break his odd habit.

When he entered high school he got a job at a local supermarket bagging groceries and helping customers take their purchases out to their vehicle. He used most of his paychecks buying new rubber masks. Scary ones, funny ones, and famous celebrities were his favorites. It was no surprise that most of the student body called him Rubber Face behind his back. Some people said it to his face.

In his mind, as he explained to more than one psych, rubber masks were the height of mask making. The ability to change his appearance was very satisfying. That’s the part no one seemed to understand.

He felt safe in a mask. That it attracted attention was not his purpose for wearing it. He understood, at one level, why people thought he was odd. Personally he didn’t think anyone was odd because they strived to look different. Tattoos, pierced body parts, ear plugs, scarifications. It was all good to Brock. He just wished people would be more tolerant of those who chose to step outside the norms in their appearance.

In his senior year Brock swallowed his shyness and went to a Halloween dance. He didn’t have a date. He hoped that there would be some girls there in the same situation. He never went to any of the other dances and proms, and felt extremely awkward. It was his last chance at going to some social activity before graduating. The senior prom was out of the question. He’d never get a date for that. The fact that he could wear a rubber mask to the Halloween dance tilted the scales in favor of going there.

He wore his favorite vampire mask and a rented tuxedo. The gym was already full of costumed students when he got there. The “Monster Mash” was blaring from two four-foot speakers on the stage.

“I was working in the lab, one night

when my eyes beheld an eerie sight

For my monster on the slab, began to rise

and suddenly to my surprise…he did the Monster Mash!

Brock was filling a plastic cup up with punch when a voice behind him said, “Would you get me a cup?” He turned and saw a female vampire waiting for an answer.

“Oh…yeah! I mean…sure,” he bumbled, and handed her his cup. She stood there silently until he filled another cup for himself.

“I like your costume,” she said in a husky voice.

“Yours too. I mean, I like yours a lot.”

In the background…

“Out from his coffin, Drac’s voice did ring

Seems he was troubled by just one thing

He opened the lid and shook his fist

And said, “Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?”

They sipped their drinks in an awkward silence before Brock spoke up, “Would you like to dance?” he asked.

“Yes. It would be my pleasure kind sir,” she chuckled playfully.

They stayed on the dance floor throughout the night. When it was time to go Brock asked his new-found vampire friend, if she needed a ride home? He could see her eyes twinkling in the mask’s eye holes.

“How kind of you to ask. I could use a short ride if you don’t mind.

“My pleasure,” he grinned happily under his mask. “Which way?”

He followed her directions to the opposite side of the city to an area he wasn’t familiar with. As he drove by an old cemetery she asked him to stop. Puzzled, he obeyed. She got out of the car and walked around to the driver’s side before he could react.

“This is far enough. I’ll walk from here. Thank you,” she said and leaned over and brought her mask up against his. “Maybe next time we’ll take our masks off. I have to go now. My name is Cecile,” she shared, and blew him a kiss before disappearing in the growing fog.

“”My name is Brock!” he yelled out the window.

“I know…” her husky voice replied. “Rubber face,” she said softly and out of his hearing.”

As he drove home he wondered what her real face looked like. How would she react when she saw his rough features? Would he ever see her again? She blew him a kiss! It took all of his concentration to get home safely that night. There were so many questions going through his head.

He was taking an evening stroll in his neighborhood a week later wearing his Sherlock Holmes mask when she appeared from behind a tree in his neighbor’s yard. She was still wearing her vampire costume and mask. He stopped and spoke in pleasant surprise, “Cecile, I presume!” he said, bowing grandly.

Indeed, sir. At your service,” she said happily.

“Shall we walk, and talk,” Brock asked while holding out his arm. She took it and they walked side-by-side down the tree-lined neighborhood with its antique-looking street lights. In the half moon’s glow they talked about things high and low. No subject was taboo.

In the early morning hours, just before the sun started its slow climb upwards, they took off their masks. He saw she was no classic beauty, but her simple plain features were attractive to him. She already knew what he looked like without a mask. She admired him for years. At a distance.

“I have to go now,” she said, sadness tinting her voice.”

“I’ll drive you!” he offered.

“Not fast enough,” she countered. “Remember what we talked about. Especially the supernatural part,” she urged.

Before he could protest she was gone. It was dawn. He went into the house and wondered what he’d say to his parents who were surely up by now eating breakfast and drinking coffee. They were both early risers.

A week went by. Brock was getting desperate to see Cecile so he drove back to the place where he dropped her off the night of the dance. There had to be some homes near the cemetery that he didn’t see that night. It was foggy and he was focused on her. But as he parked in roughly the same spot, he didn’t see anything but hills dotted with monuments and crosses.

The sun set – a fiery red ball in the west – as he pulled on his vampire mask and waited for darkness to settle over the land. He was prepared to tell her that he loved her. He didn’t have to wait long before she was standing by him in her mask.

“I miss you,” he admitted. “And, I love you.”¬†

“And I you, dear boy entering manhood,” she replied. “But we can’t pursue this love any more. It’s not fair.”

“It’s not fair to who?”

“You. By now you know what I am. You’ll grow old, but I’ll stay young. I’m already 300 years-old. We cannot take this budding romance any further. I admit to having been enchanted with you ever since you were a little boy wearing those masks. I’m sorry.”

“I’m not,” he said. “We can still be friends, can’t we?

“Yes!” she cried, and hugged him. Yes, we can Rubber Face,” she smiled under her mask.

As It Stands, a case of finding love in the wrong place, doesn’t always have to be a sad ending.

Dog Boy’s Dream Come True

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You can also listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

Manuel “Dog boy” Gonzales came into the world on January 15th, 1928, in Alabaster, Georgia.

His parents both took hard drugs, resulting in a rare condition for their child. He had Acquired hypertrichosis. In layman’s terms, he was very hairy everywhere.

He became a ward of the state when his parents were busted with a large amount of heroin in the car, discovered under Michael’s baby blanket in the back seat. He wasn’t in a booster seat. He was in a box, and the dope was his mattress.

Manuel, renamed Manny by his custodians, was adopted by a couple when he was three years-old. They didn’t mind that he looked like a little werewolf. Both had worked hard to retire in their early 60s, and wanted a child to dote on. But they found that it wasn’t easy to adopt a child at their age.

They never gave up trying. When they saw Manny sitting on the floor playing with a rag doll, their generous hearts melted. The fact that the staff didn’t think he’d ever be adopted, made them want him even more.

Bill and Lucy were unable to have their own children. Manny was a God-send to their way of thinking. His uniqueness touched them and they wanted to protect him from the world. They were thrilled when their application was approved.

As the years went by Bill and Lucy were faced with some harsh realities. No school wanted Manny in its student body. He was too much of a distraction. They took him to parks so he could play with other children, but were dismayed by their treatment of him. The other kids called him Dog boy, and mocked him by barking at him.

Lucy took it upon herself to teach him how to read and write. Bill took Manny on outdoor adventures like fishing and hiking. They did everything they could to make his life as normal as possible.

Still, it was hard on Manny who dreamed of traveling and seeing the world that he only experienced through books thus far. He was an intelligent young man, who at 18-years-old deeply loved his adopted parents, but thirsted for adventure.

One of the many things he wanted to find out was if there were other people like himself. It would help him feel less alone in the world by just knowing that.

The only thing that held him back was his parents age. They were both frail and in their eighties. He could not leave them alone. They meant too much to him. Instead, he made the best of his time with them, helping them get through the rigors of old age.

One night, Manny was awakened from a deep sleep by the sound of gunfire in the house! He sprang from the bed and ran out into the hall in time to see someone come out of his parent’s bedroom and dart into the living room.

For an instant he froze, deciding if he should go to his parent’s room or give chase to the invader. He went after the invader and managed to tackle him as he attempted to go out the wide open back door. Manny, who was strong for his small size, put a choke hold on the stranger, and squeezed with all of his strength!

Minutes sweated by as the life-and-death struggle continued. It finally came to an abrupt end and he released him, pushing his still-warm body away. His heart was still racing from the struggle when he got up and ran back to his parents room.

He saw Bill first. He was lying at the foot of the bed, still clutching half of his maple cane. A pool of blood was forming around his body as Manny looked on in horror. Tears were running down his hairy cheeks as he looked up at the bed. Lucy was propped up against the headboard of the bed staring blankly into space. Blood covered her torso.

He looked around the room and saw that Lucy’s jewelry box was lying on the floor. The closet door was open, and packages were strewn about like the invader was searching for something.

Manny was stunned. He simply didn’t know what to do. Hours passed as he sat on their bed and grieved. It was daylight before he stood up and went back out to the living room. The would-be thief was still lying by the open back door. A pillow case with his pilfered loot lay nearby. The gun flew out of his hand when Manny tackled him. It was resting on the wooden porch outside.

Two days later.

After hours of questioning the police decided Manny was within his rights to kill the intruder. The local newspaper had a field day with the double murder, and Manny killing the murderer. The photo that the newspaper ran wasn’t a very flattering shot of him, but sold newspapers like hotcakes.

He buried his parents in the same cemetery their parents were resting.

Manny could no longer stand living in the small community, and sold the house which his parents had bequeathed him in their will, and set out on the road. He bought a 1941 Ford, packed up his few belongings, and hit the road.

Months later, while he was in Florida, he came across his first Freak Show. As he paid admission the show’s owner came up to him.

“You wouldn’t be looking for a job would you sonny?” he asked, assuming Manny was just a boy because of his small stature.

“Well…” he stammered nervously, “I’m not sure.”

“What? You’re not sure? Then what are you doing here?” he asked, genuinely puzzled.

“Looking. I never been to no freak show,” he admitted.

“You paid your admission ticket…so enjoy. If you want to talk about getting a job afterwards, let me know.”

Manny went inside the tent and walked from attraction to attraction fascinated with what he saw. He wasn’t even aware at first that people were staring at him as much as the so-called freaks.

It was starting to get uncomfortable and he looked around for the exit when he noticed a group of people laughing at something. He warily made his way thought the group to see what they thought was so funny.

He got the biggest surprise of his life when he saw a bearded lady! She had a beautiful flowing beard that went down to her knees. She was telling bawdy jokes to the men gathered there. If she noticed Manny she didn’t acknowledge him and went on with her act until it was closing time.

He was ushered out of the tent with the rest of the crowd.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

The bearded lady and Manny fell in love and got married in a raucous ceremony that featured all of the freaks in the troop. Manny did his part and joined the show where he was featured as the “Dog Boy.”

The irony of his stage name never escaped him.

As It Stands, I believe there’s someone for everyone, no matter how they look.

Eyes of Love

Stanley Meltzer fell in love with a new waitresses eyes when he went to Woolworth’s one morning.

While sipping his strong black coffee, he couldn’t help but notice how pretty she was. That she had an outgoing personality was obvious, as he watched her take time to chat with every customer. Her name badge said, “Lisa.”

Lisa’s smile was sweet and innocent. Her most striking feature was her long brilliant red hair which cascaded down her shoulders like a crimson waterfall, until it met her thin waist and stopped. Her voice was pitch-perfect and mesmerized Stanley as she took his order.

Stanley was an accountant for Al Capone, the notorious crime lord who ruled Chicago after prohibition became law on January 17th, 1920.

Stanley was a mousey little man who wore a brown trench coat throughout the year. His diminutive five-foot presence often went unnoticed in public settings. A bachelor, he lived alone in a small apartment on south Madison Avenue. He paid a maid to come in once a week and clean it.

Stanley’s routine involved going to Woolworth’s every morning to get coffee and a donut. After the new waitress was hired, he started ordering breakfast just so he could talk to her longer. He got lost watching her eyes and movements.

He spent hours wishing he had the guts to ask her out. But he was too timid. He got tongue-tied around women, which wasn’t exactly an endearing trait to woo them with.

When Stanley was young, his mother often told him eyes were the gateway to a person’s soul. For the first time he understood what she meant. The waitresses eyes told volumes when she laughed at a customer’s joke.

Her green eyes twinkled merrily as she encouraged others to laugh. Innocence peeked out from the corners like a shy child. They were the eyes of a saint, or movie star. He wasn’t sure which.

Stanley had been around the block long enough to know that eyes can lie. They can deceive you, like Big Al’s dark eyes. They appear to be smiling, even when he shoots someone. Anger also illuminates Big Al’s eyes like a jungle cat’s. He’d seen that more times than he cared to remember.

It was important to be able to read eyes. Stanley, in his lonely existence, spent a lot of time reading other people’s eyes. When he finished a financial report, one of Big Al’s goons would come get it, and deliver it to his boss.

He’d look at the goon’s eyes, and would see a dangerous blankness in them. Like he didn’t have a soul. He suspected that he didn’t, because he killed people on a mobster’s orders.

One morning while Stanley was chewing on a piece of bacon, two tough-looking customers came to the counter and sat down near him. Their eyes were ugly with suspicion and hate, as each gruffly ordered a coffee.

Big Al had a lot of enemies. Instinctively, he knew these two new guys on the block were enemies of Big Al. This was his territory, and when new thugs came into the neighborhood trouble always followed.

His hand shook slightly as he lifted his cup and took a sip of coffee. The two thugs were laughing and boasting about their work when two of Big Al’s men entered with Tommy Guns!

Just before they opened fire, Stanley leaped over the counter and covered Lisa’s body with his own! A second later their machine guns were drilling holes into the two thugs bodies, and haphazardly tracking the rest of the counter.

Stanley felt both bullets hit him in the back!

He collapsed to the ground with Lisa beneath him. His blood soaked her, as the machine guns kept stitching the counter. Miraculously, three other customers who were at the counter weren’t even wounded, as they plunged to the floor to escape the hot lead.

Big Al’s boys calmly walked out, leaving chaos behind them. The two thugs bodies were riddled with bullet holes. The only other person shot was Stanley. He was barely alive when the ambulance crew got there and took him to the hospital.

Stanley heard voices. He tried to open his eyes, but they felt heavy. A doctor was talking with a nurse at the end of his bed. He heard snatches of conversation; “The next 24-hours will tell…has anyone contacted his family?..Try to keep him comfortable…”

When he woke the next day the nurse called his doctor in. He came in and checked his bandages, instructing the nurse to change them when he was finished.

“Mr. Meltzer,” the doctor said, “you’re a lucky man. One of the bullets that struck you almost hit your heart. It’s going to be a while before you recover. We weren’t able to contact any of your family members. You do have a visitor. She says she’s your girlfriend.”

Stanley struggled to sit up in his excitement. “My girlfriend!” he said, like a parrot repeating a phrase.

“Easy now…you can’t move that fast yet. Do you want me to send her in?”

“Please! Yes, I’d love to see her.

When Lisa walked into the room she didn’t hesitate, and went straight to his bed and kissed him on the mouth.

“Thank you, Stanley” she said, with love in her eyes.

As It Stands, love can be sudden, and still last forever.

 

Undying Love

A spark of life suddenly animated Arnaud Harte’s moldering corpse.¬†

His body had been thrown into a large hole with hundreds of other French soldiers after the Battle of France – also known as the Fall of France – against the Germans months before.

Now, he clawed at the dirt surrounding him with supernatural strength until he broke through to the surface.

His uniform was rotting off his decomposed corpse as he crawled out of the hole into the moonlight. Anna Marie, the love of his life, was in danger! He clearly remembered telling her, before going off to battle, that he’d always protect her…no matter what.

The German patrol was tracking Anna Marie and the other five members of the French Resistance in a forest near Paris. For two days they had eluded the Germans, but they were wearing down and several were wounded. Anna Marie was among those wounded.

The German pursuers had made camp and were setting up a perimeter when Arnaud shambled over to one of the sentries and grabbed him from behind! He never saw the thing that choked him to death. Fortunately, he didn’t feel it bite into his face!

Arnaud took his bayonet and went hunting for another sentry. As he approached another sentry the man suddenly turned around and saw him! He screamed in terror and fired a round at Arnaud, which passed through his body with no effect.

What the sentry saw was a vision from hell! It wore a ragged French uniform over it’s decaying flesh. It’s teeth were exposed in a death mask created by rigor mortis. The hallow eyes burned with hell fires. Patches of stringy hair hung from it’s partly bald head.

He meant to fire again but the thing had swiftly moved in and stabbed him in the throat with it’s bayonet. The soldier’s terrified eyes grew dull as Arnaud kept stabbing him. When he finished he went looking for another victim.

When the German camp awakened early the next morning, Hauptmann Reinhard was already barking at his men. Then he started getting the reports. Every sentry that night was dead! Not just dead, but dead and horribly mutilated!

A pall settled over the remaining soldiers. Each one felt a fear like nothing they’d ever experienced before. They had to hastily bury the bodies as Hauptmann Reinhard was eager to pursue the French Resistance fighters.

He didn’t know what to think about the men’s deaths. In all of his years in the military he’d never seen anything like it. They were all partly eaten! He couldn’t let the men know his concerns though. He had a job to do.

Later that day, shortly before the sun went down, the Germans caught up to the French fighters. In the ensuing firefight four Germans and three of the French fighters were killed. The two French survivors crawled away into the underbrush as night fell.

There were still twelve Germans left, counting Hauptmann Reinhard, when the firing stopped. It was a moonless night and the wind whispered through the trees. A wolf howled forlornly.

Anna Marie was bleeding from two wounds. One in her left arm and another in the chest. Joan Fournier, her fellow resistance fighter, was hit twice in the chest and was barely alive. They both lay hidden in a thicket of bushes. Anna Marie had a revolver with three shots left.

The German soldiers were dispirited. They couldn’t get their comrades deaths out of their minds. All of them were hardened infantry who saw several major campaigns. None of them had ever seen anything like it. Four sentries were stationed around their small perimeter.

The wolf stopped howling and the creatures of the forest were unnaturally quiet. Arnaud snuck up on a sentry and drove his bayonet through his throat! Then he sunk his teeth into the man’s face and ripped away flesh!

By the time Arnaud killed the other three sentries the sun was coming up. One of the first soldiers to awaken walked outside the perimeter to take a piss. When he saw the mangled body of his comrade he screamed uncontrollably. The rest of the camp came alive and men grabbed their rifles as they sprung up from their sleeping bags.

Hauptmann Reinhard had his Ruger out and ordered two of the men to investigate where the screams were coming from. Arnaud waited until the two new arrivals came upon their screaming comrade to attack!

He drove his bayonet into one man’s mouth and grabbed the other’s rifle from him. The other soldier went down like an ox when Arnaud shot him in the head!

It was time to end the chase once and for all.

Arnaud walked into the camp where the four surviving Germans were. He started shooting and they retuned fire. Their bullets however had no effect on Arnaud. Pieces of his decaying flesh flew off from the impact of the bullets.

The last German alive was Hauptmann Reinhard. When the smoke cleared he was lying on the ground but trying to get himself up. Arnaud walked over to him and gave his best death head grin. Then he brought the butt end of his rifle down on Reinhard’s skull!

When Arnaud found Anna Marie she was barely alive and unconscious. Next to her was her friend Joan, who had passed away during the night. He sat down next to her and held her hand as she took her last breath.

Somewhere in another world, they were alive and healthy again; and still very much in love.

As It Stands, a violent love story is off the beaten track.

Moe The Manipulator, or Whatever You Want To Call Him

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In the absence of facts and truth there is a void, an alternative universe.

It’s parameters are loosely defined by physics subject to change daily. In this universe you can find Moe the Manipulator.

It’s his job to hold reality at bay. He’s the guardian of the gullible. The Gatekeeper of Gall. Nothing is too far out for Moe. He can be the Master of Disaster, or your Daddy. He’ll take up residence in your brain without pain.

Once he’s riding your cerebrum you can sit back and watch. He’ll introduce you to your frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe. It’s a wild ride when Moe hits his stride.

Some say he is the devil. It could be true, but who knows for sure? Whatever he is, he’ll try to get inside of you. If you give in to greed, hate, and power you’ll be devoured by the void.

Moe has nothing good to say. He spends his time trying to lead you astray. He’s a clever character who reads you like a book. Can’t take detours with Moe. Ya Gotta drive him out of your cranium like a NASCAR driver on his last lap.

He’s crazy with a capital C. He’ll make your brain burn like a dried-out tree. No sympathy. No hope. Moe will get you hooked on dope. You’ll be buzzing like a stoned bee bumping into eternity.

It’s best to just stay away from Moe. Ignore those little voices and don’t go there. He’s a bedbug that will burrow into your brain. He’ll happily drive you insane.

He goes by many names, and likes playing nasty games with your life. Hate, vengeance, cruelty and bigotry. He’s the harbinger of strife. His goal is to ruin your life.

Look around you. How many people do you think have Moe the Manipulator embedded in their skulls? Has Moe gotten to you yet? If not, then spread the message; Love conquers hate.

As It Stands, despite the fact that many people carry Moe around like a medal, I believe there’s more good people who aren’t afraid to stand up to him.