Tim McMullen's Missives and Tomes

Thursday, October 30, 2014

For A Good Time (another Halloween trick or treat?)

by Tim McMullen

His quiescence was shattered by the piercing shrillness of hideous laughter. He lifted his head slowly, painstakingly; a quaking chill ascended his spine as he did so. When his eyes finally focused, he surveyed his surroundings in startled disbelief. The shrieks and cackles sliced through the dense, musty atmosphere and assaulted his already frayed nerve-endings. The acrid smell of smoke and human odor flared his nostrils in a most obscene manner. He squinted through the murky air to the walls around him.
Barely visible, the implements of destruction hung suspended from the walls and ceiling. A huge chain, each link fully as large as a human skull, had been attached to the wall at one end, while the other was fixed to a grotesque two-headed scythe sporting spade-shaped spikes at both ends. He shuddered as his gaze fell upon savage metal hooks which could shred a man's flesh like a plow in a field of jello. Then he saw the murderous wooden clubs that could mash a man to a bloody pulp. The wailings of the other victims pierced his groggy senses as he stared in slack-jawed wonderment. Wiping the sweat from his forehead with his forearm, he let the arm linger there in an attempt to block out the scene.
Wilton Fischler blinked his eyes rapidly, threw back his head, splayed his fleshy lips in a piscatorial grin, and liberated a resounding belch. Ducking his head sheepishly, he admitted to himself that he was more drunk than he had thought. After some moments of silent embarrassment, he surveyed the wavering room again.
It was nearly pitch dark, or so it seemed to him, with only the flicker of a few candles on distant tables. Given his present state of inebriation, it was understandable that the nautical paraphernalia strewn around the walls had taken on a different and much more ominous shape in his eyes. The anchor, the grappling irons, and the belaying pins had been drunkenly metamorphosed into the sinister and threatening instruments he had seen; hence, the torture-chamber effect.
"I guessh I better get outa' here while I shtill can!" he mumbled, scratching the thinning fringe of brownish hair at the back of his head with a vacant look. It had been a tough week; sales were way down, and, more particularly, he had "the horn." In fact, it was the old "manly urge" that had propelled him to this little bar on the wharf, but thus far his overtures had encountered firm rebukes and little else.
"To hell with 'em!" he murmered. His hand fell to his right pant leg, and he felt on the outside of his pocket for a moment; then, reassured, he patted the spot and said, "Who needs these broads, anyway?" He lowered his gaze to the table for a moment and then began lifting the empty glasses, bottles, and cocktail napkins that lay scattered on the table, obviously searching in vain. "It must be around here shumwhere," he insisted. "Here, little Billy-willy! Here, little bill."
Howls of laughter rose from the youngsters at the next booth.
"Wha' sho funny?" Wilton muttered as he rose to leave. He painstakingly pulled his wallet from the breast pocket of his shiny, blue, serge suit and carefully removed a twenty-dollar bill which he then place neatly and methodically on the table, exclaiming, "That should cover the damages, my dear,"· to no one in particular. He turned slowly and searched for the dull green light of the exit.
Upon turning his head, he found that the room, in a fit of uncooperativeness, had begun to spin around him in a most disorienting and disconcerting manner. He grabbed hold of the table in an attempt to steady his equilibrium back down to the familiar, easy rolling which he generally equated with such wet evenings.
Gradually, the walls began to assume a more reasonable shape, and the floor flattened itself into a semi-walkable surface. Wilton launched himself on a course which he hoped would lead him through the maze of tables and patrons toward the back of the place; once there, he counted on finding a rear exit. He had some trouble negotiating the path, and more than one table corner reached out to jostle him rudely; nevertheless, despite all of the pratfalls thrown at him by the unfriendly room, he eventually made his way to the rear of the establishment. Here he found himself confronted with the specter of a long, desolate hallway, illumined dingily by the glow of two red neon signs.
One sign had a quite familiar message; he read and comprehended it almost immediately. It said "M-E-N." Undaunted by the darkened hallway, he propelled himself toward the men's room. Upon reaching the door, however, he found that the second glowing sign was now readable. He gaped up at it in unequivocal astonishment. There, in bright, red-lit letters,was the word, "OMEN."
Wilton felt the word register in his besotted brain slowly, as if some slug-footed insect had to transport the message from his eyes to his mind. When this torpid courier finally completed its commission, the import was clear: He, Wilton Fischler, was to be the recipient of some form of special warning. He readied himself by extending his left arm toward the door frame in an attempt to calm the almost convulsive trembling which wracked his unwilling body. Unfortunately, as his hand reached the door, his arm gave an involuntary lurch, said lurch being just sufficientt o swing open said door. Tumbling helplessly through the opening, he twisted instinctively so as to land in a sitting position. He sat, visibly jarred (pickled, as it were), staring at the luminous soothsayer flashing fierily in the distance.
After some moments, he perceived that its message was changing. First, the sign had gone out, leaving him in near darkness. It returned, however, displaying the same word as before, "OMEN." Then it blinked out, suddenly, only to reappear with a new image. He rubbed his eyes and read the new word carefully. Emblazoned in scarlet luminescence, it glowered ominously: "WOMEN!" Again it flashed and was gone. Finally, the full intent of the transmission was articulated as the sign began to change rapidly back and forth, from one word to the other, each pausing for a second and then giving way to its counterpart. Still he sat in the men's room doorway staring up at the gleaming edict. 
"OMEN" [pause] "WOMEN" [PAUSE] "OMEN"..."WOMEN"..."OMEN!"
After another thirty seconds, the message winked out and did not return. With its final flash, he felt his stupor subside significantly. A fierce spasm contracted his scrotum, threatening to retract his testicles permanently. Fischler jerked his knees toward his chest and fumbled helplessly at his pants.
"Oh, Jeez' ...Oh, Jeez'...Le'mme alone!" he cried. Only then did he realize exactly where he was sitting. He pulled himself up and staggered out of the doorway to the other side of the hall just as two young women emerged from the portal beneath the recently expired oracle. Standing on tiptoe with his back to the wall, Wilton pressed his behind and his sweaty, outstretched palms against the wall of the dingy hallway in an effort to escape the reach of the two approaching females.
"No! N-N-O-O-O! Huh-uh...Huh-uh…Huh-uh!" he shook his head as he chanted his terrified incantation in their direction.
As they passed, the blonde nymphet in the floral-fishnet stockings whispered to the vixen in the leatherette mini-skirt. Gales of giggles accompanied their return to the smoky bar. Frantically, Wilton plumbed the depths of his right front pocket. With a gasp of deliverance, he plucked the scrap from his pants, and with trembling hands he gingerly unfolded the paper and held it before him. It resembled the silhouette of a human bust, but Fischler, the Wary, knew better; it was, in fact, the center of one of those toilet seat covers, the useless part that trails down in the water and sucks the ring into the toilet when it's flushed.
There, in the middle of the oval, was the telephone number he had scrawled down off the restroom wall several hours earlier. In a flurry of frantic fingers and flying paper, he shredded the scatological memorandum and its now dreaded contents. Finally, flinging the confetti over his shoulder with cavalier flair, Wilton, the Wise, caromed past his extinguished savior and, braving the frigid blast of air which blew by him as he pushed the handle of the rear door, lurched confidently out into the brisk darkness of the expectant night.

©1985 Tim McMullen

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