Long ago, when I worked as a reporter in the international news business, I would get accosted two hours before deadline with ridiculous requests from the showrunner. “Clark, explain China,” or “Clark, whither Belarus?” or “Clark, why is key lime pie popular in Uruguay?”
The worst request, by far, was this one: “Clark, do something funny!” Put a quarter in the idiot, right? Dance! Juggle for the crowd! Blow them kisses! “Oh, and make it about one of those odd things that over-educated, underpaid US public radio listeners will love, like Indonesian meringue or Dutch pole-sitting. Or quinoa!”
Jesus wept, right? I know I did.
Often, after completing a piece like this (I actually did the Dutch pole-sitting one. That shit’s real, and it’s both age and COVID-friendly, so I’m confident I can still become a champion), I vowed I’d get my revenge. Actually, I drank heavily to forget I’d just debased myself on air, and then swore revenge. I didn’t know how, or when, but “Do something funny!” was coming back to haunt someone else.
And now it has, as the title of a short horror story I wrote that’s included — appropriately I might add — in a new anthology called Night Terrors (the e-book is only .99 people, so come on!). I’m happy the folks at Scare Street gave it a good home. Ask me what the story’s about, and I’ll say…catharsis. Also, blood. Blood and catharsis. With Jerry Lewis and the liberal misuse of ether thrown in.
But yeah, mostly catharsis. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite for revenge.
I hit the brakes hard, and Timmy’s forehead slams into the back of my seat. Before he can recover, I douse a rag in some of the ether my father left hidden in the basement. Proof, I think with a grin, that dentists will do anything to make their lives a little less boring. While Timmy scrambles to unlock his door, I quickly reach back and shove the ether-soaked rag over his mouth and nose. He’s surprised at how fast I move.
He’s even more surprised, though, when he finally clocks who I am.
I watch confusion turn to panic as his eyes close.
I look up and down the street, checking to see if anyone was watching. But it appears I’m the only moving thing on the backstreets of Branson right now. I head for home, remembering to keep the Saturn well under the speed limit the whole way.
An hour later, Timmy’s propped up on my sofa, naked, his face bathed in the glow of the television. I’ve got my old VHS copy of The Nutty Professor cued up for a late-night screening. It’s time for Timmy’s comedic reeducation to begin.
Poor. Little. Timmy.
Oh, and if you ask me why I’m writing horror stories when ordinary life itself is such a horror story these days, the answer’s simple: it pays. Not much, mind you, but more than any of those too-precious “literary fiction” outlets that publish things I would describe, kindly, as masturbatory drivel.
I said “drivel.” Heh-heh.