• • •
Effervescent stars of violet, maroon, and cerulean begin to flash at Humphrey from inside the darkness of his eyelids. He slowly lowers his hands from his eyes, flinching when the rubb’d skin sticks to his fingers and then snaps back into place. He couldn’t believe his eyes at the sight of it, he could not believe his eyes, and on the cartoons the characters always rub their eyes when they can’t believe what they see, so Humphrey started rubbing his eyes and he got lost in it, Humphrey got all kinds of lost in it. Happens to the best of us, Humphrey is sure it does, but that’s all beside the point. The ad is real, it’s really real! Someone just a short hour and one half away is selling a collection of antique porcelain dolls! Humphrey is a lifelong afficionado of antique porcelain dolls, an ancient relative in his family was the model for a line of dolls back in times unwritt’n abou’, the dolls are his passion and his muse!
“I must have them,” Humphrey says to himself, his cheeks beginning to drip sweat. “No matter what the cost, I must have the collection. This man has more ads, I’ll buy up quite a bit of his belongings. As a gesture of good faith, mnyess. Perhaps he’ll even throw me a discount.” Humphrey’s hands come together at the jibbery fingertips. “Yes, this will be perfect. This will all go swimmingly for Big Mister Humphrey.”
“Mangleton Beach. Huh. I wonder if that’s a place.”
An excruciatingly inflammatory itch sinks its prickly teeth into Calvin’s nose, but he can’t scratch it at the current moment. Isn’t that the worst feeling, when you have an itch you’re not quite allowed to scratch and you feel it delving deeply into your body, heating up a tiny bit as it grows and spreads like a plague from your skin into your bones into the very core of your being? It certainly is the worst feeling, and y’know what that means? Scratching that itch is the greatest feeling. All is balanced.
“It must be, right? Why on Earth would somebody make up a fake beach to use as a name for an electric utensil company? It seems so ridiculous saying it out loud, but I bet that’s how it is. I bet there is no Mangleton Beach, not one single one in the world. Psych! Hah, that would be too good to be true, the world would have to be a simulation if there’s not a single Mangleton Beach on the entire motherfuck of a cunting shit’planet.” Calvin turns towards Humphrey and looks him in the eyeballs. “What about you, Humphrey? What the fuck do you think?”
What Humphrey thinks is evidently no fucking business of Calvin’s. “Well fine, so let me ask you this: what sounds crazier, a guy who makes up a fake beach to name his electric utensil company after, or a whole world populated by humans just like us who never thought to name a beach for an innocent human being named Mangleton?”
Humphrey isn’t saying anything, he’s just looking at Calvin with this dopey vacant grin like he smoked some stellar pot on the hour and a half car ride here to Calvin’s place by the center of Wuester.
“All right, maybe crazier isn’t the right word. What sounds more probable? Or should it be possible? They say anything is possible, Humphrey, so long as you put your mind to it. But you don’t have much of a mind these days, do you?”
Rocking that spacey grin, Humphrey holds strong.
“You smoked wayyyy too much stellar pot on the car on the car ride the car ride over here, dididn’t you Humphreezey?”
If Humphrey was going to answer, he probably would have by now. And Calvin recognizes this. “I recognize this. Trying to talk to him is pointless, he might as well be a mannequin. Hey Humphrey, fuck you.”
Nothing but the grin.
“Fuck you Humphrey, you dirty, filthy little faggot-girl, you. Abominabablale! You are a horrid foot-sniffing abomination of humanity, Humphrey Being! To be in your presence makes me feel physically uncomfortable, Humphroy, I’m surprised you’re allowed within a mile of elementary schools you prostitute, you shaven-crotch scratch’n’sniffer! That’s all you are, you fleeking Satanist, you supine figment of Hell incarnate! You are husky, Humphrey, you are straight hunksky in this piece! GrAAAAGH! I can’t tell if I love you or if I hate you, but I know I want to touch you, Humphrey. I want to touch you in a very specific way.”
Vacant eyes, dopey grin, not a single bead of sweat.
“See? You’re spineless. You sit there and stare at me. You’re impotent. You’re subnormal. You have nothing to say! You are nothing, Humphrey, you are absolutely funicking nothing. Now I’m going to touch you, I’m going to make you something.”
Calvin begins the slow walk across the room to Humphrey. The cord plugged into the wall stretches to full length and pulls the electric knife out of Calvin’s hand, but he doesn’t notice it. He’s next to Humphrey now, little hoary Humphrey who came knockin’ Calvey’s doorstoop. Saliva floods Calvin’s mouth as he lifts one hand into the air.
Fingers splayed. Nose itchy. Eyes livid.
Shrieking at the top of his lungs, Calvin swings his hand and open palm smacks Humphrey across the face. Humphrey’s head flies off the table and the crown of his skull clonks boneily into the one wall. There’s a wet splat when it finally lands.
Breathing heavy, Calvin removes one glove, then the other. He removes his apron, falls to his knees, raises his arms to the ceiling, and thanks his higher selves for granting him the work he has received on this day. He then stands, scratches his nose raw, and collects up the Mangleton Beach electric knife to be cleaned for sale. Humphrey’s head will join the rest of him in the freezer, but not until tonight. Humphrey’s a filthy little dirty thing, he deserves to wallow on the floor for a while.
You Never Know
White knuckles bound by bony fingers grip the steering wheel.
“This is so dumb, I don’t know why I’m bothering. It’s just a few things, and I only need one of them to sell. If they all went it would be great, but they might sit. They can’t sit, they cannot sit they cannot they cannot they just they cannot sit, an–”
The door opens at the top of the steps. A large gray ‘man in striped shorts and a white tee that’s three sizes too small for his bulbous gut slowly maneuvers his way down the couple stairs between his front door and his walkway. He then steps on the five steppingstones between the front stairs and the driveway. Calvin is out of the car with the trunk open by the time the gray ‘man gets over there.
“Like I said, it’s just these things. Junko pop, electric knife, old recipe pad. I think it’s from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the uh, the recipe pad. I don’t, I don’t think the Junko pop – wait, no, wait, could you imagine for a second, a Junko pop in a real-life museum… wait, that’s a fucking IDEA!”
The gray man grunts. “You put your advert in the pad?
Calvin nods graphicly. The boy’s amped up. He adds, “I sure did, Mahty. You never know, right?”
“You never know,” Mahty agrees, then nods one slowly. “All right, bring it inside and get. I’ll call you if any of it moves.”
Calvin hustles as he carries his stuff into Mahty’s house. Mahty is just mounting the second steppingstone as Calvin is making his way out for the final time.
“Thanks again Mahty! Hope your mom’s doing well!”
Mahty says, “Yeahhh,” but Calvin doesn’t hear him. Calvin’s already in the car. Calvin’s already backing out of the driveway. Calvin’s nose is already starting to itch again.
This has been the seventh story from Highdeas: The Lost Stories from the Seven Earths, a flash fiction anthology hidden in the back of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~