While I’d taken it upon myself to pick some horrific non-horror films a few Halloweens ago (Guillermo del Toro’s eyes-in-the-hands guy, you’re always on my mind), this year I was interested to know what my fellow TNB contributors might say were the most terrifying movie scenes they’ve endured to date. Below, if you dare to read on, you’ll find those iconic dead-eyed twins, bad hell-spawn hair, an unfathomable choice, and more, but first I’ll get this party started with Willy Wonka’s boat ride from the 1971 Mel Stuart film.  Most of my phobias can be traced back to these two manic minutes in the tunnel:

I made a huge mistake yesterday.  I looked in the mirror. Here in my mind’s eye, I am a crisp, shiny red apple, but in the mirror, I more closely resemble that cucumber you forgot about for two months in the back of the refrigerator.  Remember how it was swollen and foamy?  Remember how it collapsed in your hand when you tried to throw it out? Remember the little brown puddle it left on the shelf? Yeah. I’m closer to that cucumber now.

Please explain what just happened.

Erika Rae: Which one–the weeping or the laughing?

Carissa Carter: The weeping might be me. I over-indulged on this new craving for kale that just won’t go away.

 

What is your earliest memory?

ER: Spiderman was creeping around all open-armed on our brown, plaid living room couches in the dark. Next, I found myself inexplicably stuffed in the kitchen pantry eating dried brown rice from a white bucket. I think it may have been a dream, but I’m not sure.

CC: I was sitting on the floor of my room in our new house stroking a 4×6” swatch of shag carpet from our old house.

Frog

in

the house!

 

Victor loves road trips.  He finds serenity behind the wheel on a long trip, whereas I might could crawl out of my skin. The first day we drove north for about 14 hours.  It takes at least that long for my whining to manifest itself inside his tranquil bubble.

By the second day we were able to exit the car to check out Annapolis and Washington, D.C.  This trip coincided with a major heat wave.  It was 107° on the coolest day we were there. Victor likes to walk, meander, really.  The heat and the humidity don’t bother him. He’s soaking in the culture.  I’m soaking in sweat and learning just how long it takes me to develop a heat rash.  (Not long.)

I did see a wedding dress draped with a tartan plaid wool shawl and with lace epaulettes in a shop window. It looked perfect for Michael Jackson, if he had ever decided to get married in a gown.  I showed it to Victor, but he said “what?” Victor doesn’t always get stuff.

If you want to tour the Capitol, you can’t carry a purse bigger than 4 ½ by 6 by 8 inches.  You can’t hardly zip the bare essentials into something that small.  There’s a lengthy inventory of items that I really must have, because I am a prudent person. Victor says you only need your wallet and your reading glasses.  Men.

When we got to the Capitol Visitor’s Center, I really had to put my back into opening the doors. They’re blast-resistant.  Maybe we should put blast-resistant windows in our house, you know, for Armageddon. I imagine they’re quite pricey, though, and my discretionary cash is already going to replacing new sidewalks with newer sidewalks in Boynton, Oklahoma.

Quite a few congressmen and senators passed by us because they were doing that whole debt-ceiling thing.  All of them were shockingly impressive-looking people.  Way taller than regular people… stick-straight posture… lantern-jaws…quality designer suits… full heads of shiny, perfectly styled hair.  To be a politician, clearly you don’t have to be impressive; you only have to look impressive.

I do enjoy mining Victor’s head when I’m trapped in a car with him. For instance, he maintains that the most repulsive bad breath has two origins:

1. Keeping a small dead mouse between your teeth and gums.
2. Keeping a rind of a firm Swiss between your teeth and gums.

You can’t argue with him.  Just because you don’t know anyone who does these things doesn’t mean it isn’t nasty.

Victor also pontificated on the subject of prostitution.  He says if you are going to have sex with a stranger, it might as well be a rich stranger and that he hopes he taught his daughters that if they find themselves needing cash, they should not overlook this lucrative path to solvency.

To look at him, all rumpled in misbuttoned Hawaiian shirts and stained, saggy travel shorts, you just wouldn’t appreciate what a font of knowledge he is.   Victor is the anti- politician.


When our kids found out that we would be going to Amsterdam on our next trip, they badgered us not to miss the chance to smoke dope when we had the opportunity to do it legally.  We were called wimps for voicing doubt. We were reminded that we probably would not return to Amsterdam again, old as we are.  They pleaded with us not to be pussies.

A coffee house in Amsterdam is the place where you can buy and smoke marijuana, but not a cigarette.  That would be illegal.  Oddly, they do not have coffee there.  On our first day there, we had an Indonesian Rijsttafel near a coffee house. We passed it and it looked to be a pretty rough place.  There was an imposing bouncer-type dude outside wearing black leather and chains. We took him as representative of the clientele, and kept walking. There was no way we could walk inside that place.

We passed another coffee house the next day that had almost as alarming-looking characters outside it.  (I never knew people could pierce the backs of their necks and their breasts!) We left that place for people with a more powerful mission to smoke dope.

Two days later, we were in a very respectable part of town where there was a coffee shop.  Victor looked at me and asked what I thought.

“Uh, I don’t know,” I waffled.

Victor said that if we didn’t do it in this upscale neighborhood, we never would.  We didn’t want to disappoint the kids, right?

Victor walked inside and I followed.



It was located kitty-corner across the street from Rembrandt’s house.  It was as classy a coffee shop as we had seen.




The man at the bar gave us a drug menu.  We bought a marijuana cigarette and asked for matches. The joint was very narrow and conically shaped.  A third of it consisted of a filter of some sort. It was unimpressive. Victor lit it and we each took a puff and coughed violently.  We were out of practice.  I told Victor I didn’t think I could smoke it.  He said that it was now or never.  I didn’t want to disappoint the kids, did I?



We each took another puff and coughed like consumptives again.  We sat for a while and looked at the joint in the ashtray.  The matchbox was made in Sweden! I thought that was amazing!

Victor suggested that we try a really little puff and see if we didn’t cough so much.  So we took one or two wee puffs more.  About ten minutes passed.  I told Victor that I’d had enough.  He blinked at me.  He said he’d go get us cokes.

We sat over our joint. Half of it was still untouched. We drank some soda.  We looked at the joint.  We drank some more soda.  We looked at the ashtray.  I wondered where it was made.

Victor suggested he drop the partially smoked joint in the soda can. Then we could leave and walk home.  It seemed like a good idea to hide the fact we couldn’t finish it.  I guess we were embarrassed that we turned out to be minor league dope smokers.




I asked Victor if he could find his way home to the hotel.  I couldn’t have found my way in the best of circumstances.  It was my good fortune to have married a map-reading whiz.

My mind was meandering.  I feared I might wander away from Victor to follow my thoughts, so I asked him to keep checking that I was nearby.  He said I could count on him.

We were about two miles or more from the hotel as the crow flies, but the way the streets were mapped out, (do you remember the map I had you draw in an earlier piece?) it was about 100 miles.

I marched behind Victor carefully.  In most places it was impossible to walk next to each other because of the crowds and the swarms of speeding bicycles. After we had walked a block, Victor stopped and appeared puzzled.  He studied the map and then he turned around in a circle and, without speaking, started walking fast.  I tried to catch up, but first I had to explain to my knees that they had to lock with each step, or I would fall down.  If we had kept walking, it would have been all right, but when we stopped, my knees simply discontinued standard operation. Victor was totally involved in the whole map-reading experience and I didn’t want to interrupt him to ask if his knees were functioning normally.  I was anxious to get back to the hotel.

After a few minutes of walking, I stopped and yanked on Victor’s sleeve.

“We are in a hotel lobby!” I shouted.

He looked at me.

“Huh.  Well, it was a hotel lobby, but now it has turned back into a street again,” I said.

Victor patted me on the back.

While we walked, Victor peppered his map reading with mumbled responses to questions that I hadn’t asked.

“Thirty.”

“Yellow, I think.”

“Over there.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Possibly.”

Victor continued to stop, looking puzzled, at most corners to scrutinize the map. He invariably turned around 360 ° and then took off again suddenly.  I really needed to hold on to part of him.  It was quite congested and there were a surprising number of policemen staring at us, who subsequently morphed into tourists who were not actually looking at us. I tucked a finger in his waistband and trailed him closely.

“Victor, things are not what they seem,” I said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“What we see is not necessarily there,” I said.

Victor blinked at me.

When I asked Victor if he remembered that I were with him, he did not look surprised to see me.  I took that as a good sign.

I was seriously thirsty, but I did not want to mention it, because I had no intention of stopping until we got back into our hotel.

In actual time, it took an hour and a half to walk back to the hotel.  Victor got us back without a single mistake. When we got to the steps of the hotel, I asked Victor if he thought my knees would be able to understand what a staircase entailed.  He didn’t hear me, but I needn’t have worried, because my knees were able to figure out just how to act when faced with both climbing and descending a staircase.

When we got to our room, I filled the hotel glass with water several times and drank each glass quickly.  It was good water!

“My mouth is dry,” Victor said.

I poured a glass of water for him and brought it over.  He took a couple of sips, and handed it back to me.

“My mouth is dry, but I’m not thirsty,” he said.

“Huh!  I always thought they were the same thing!” I said.

I didn’t like how my lungs felt.  It was as though they were still filled up with smoke.  I wanted to know if Victor felt the same way, but it was way too much trouble to ask.

I lay down on the bed and closed my eyes.Victor said that it was 5:00 and we could leave for dinner at 6:30, if that was all right with me.

“We’ll see,” I said.

“Aren’t you hungry?” he asked.

“Nope.  I just want to lie down and watch where my mind is going,” I said.

Victor got out his computer.  I went into the bathroom and noticed that the tiles were blooming with tiny blue flowers. I had not noticed that they had tiny blue flowers on them before. It appeared that being stoned made possible for me to see how pretty things were.

When I got back to the bed, Victor looked at me and popped up on his elbow.

“What are you eating?” he asked.

“I’m not eating,” I said.

“Then what do you have in your mouth?” he asked.

“My mouth guard,” I answered.

“Why are you wearing your mouth guard?” he asked.

“My teeth are grinding.  Using my mouth guard is only sensible,” I said.

He went back to the computer on his chest.  He was reading his email.

I lay down on the bed and after a while I took out my mouth guard and poked Victor.

“Don’t. Sell. The Farm,” I  said.

“All right,” he said.

“I mean it,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

I was impressed that he was doing his email.  Victor has terrific powers of concentration.

I poked him again.

“Don’t make any big decisions,” I said.

“I won’t,” he said.

“This is not the time for making big decisions,” I said.

“I understand,” he said.

After a while, I began to say something to Victor but stopped.

“What?” he said.

I started to laugh.

“I just realized what I was going to say doesn’t make sense,” I said.

“What were you going to say?” he asked.

“I was going to say that I was happy that there were no bicycles riding around our bed,” I said.

We laughed a lot about how hard it would be for me to get to the bathroom at night if there were bicycles speeding around the bed all night long.

Victor was also laughing about something he was reading on the Internet.He tried to read it to me, but he was laughing too much for me to understand anything he was saying.

Victor remained obsessed with eating.  He asked me every few minutes if I was ready to leave for dinner.  I finally gave in and we walked to a restaurant. Victor took great pleasure his meal.  My meal was good, but I could have skipped food and just stayed in the room to think some more.

Later that night I was truly disappointed to see that the tiles in the room were just plain brown.  They were far prettier covered with tiny blue flowers.

I

We mad fly; we
Dream dry; we
Scribble drunk; we
Fake the funk; we
Keeps it real; we
Sly conceal; we
Royal hall; we
Southern drawl; we
Bleed tears; we
Clink cheers; we
Fling curves; we
Gnaw nerves; we
Break it down; we
Class clown; we
Write raw; we
Down by law.

This week, TNB doyenne Irene Zion selects some of her favorite pieces:


ERIKA RAE is THIS close to enlightenment, if only her anus would smile!

 

GINA FRANGELLO doesn’t want to be an asshole, but she’s afraid she might be anyhow.

 

JOE DALY has a really bad trip, worse than you did, no matter what you come up with!

 

DAVID WILLS teaches a bevy of really, really famous children.

 

Rodent and JUDY PRINCE speak entirely different languages.


Wherein JESSICA ANYA BLAU explains that no one remembers that story you’re too afraid to write.

 

DON MITCHELL is physically fit, just not as fit as the fairy. There really is no justice.

 

ANGELA TUNG is not always patient with you people. She has a lot in common with Gina Frangello.

 

We should all be this lucky.

 

LENORE ZION didn’t tell her parents until more than a week after she was in this accident. Seriously. Her parents are still sputtering about it.

We had no trouble driving from Brussels to Amsterdam, except for that one time the police roared their bright yellow motorcycles around our car frantically waving at us. I thought they were pulling us over, but they were simply indicating to Victor that if he planned to continue driving like an old fart, he had to move out of the faster lanes.  Victor said not to worry.  Our license plate was French.  Anyone who objected to our driving just assumed the French were bad drivers.

Then we arrived in Amsterdam. 
Please go get a pencil and a blank piece of paper.
Now do the following:
Close your eyes.
Draw a spiral on the paper. 
Then draw lots of Xs through the spiral. 
(Keep your eyes closed, now!) 
Crumple the paper up, flatten it out again and turn it 90°.
Now draw several happy faces. 
Okay? 
Now open your eyes. 
You just drew the actual map of Amsterdam!

When we entered Amsterdam we were immediately trapped in a maze. Canals randomly intersected the roads and swarms of speeding bikes appeared from nowhere. The street signs were small and illegible, however, they could have been enormous and it would not have helped us at all. The names of the streets were impossibly long. Most of the vowels were doubled up and the consonants were huddled together like little bouquets.

Eventually, we found our hotel. (It took about the same length of time as it took us to drive from Brussels to Amsterdam.) We bumped our bags up the stairs to our hotel lobby and Victor got instructions to the garage.

Our room was not yet available, so I sat in the lobby with the bags and read my book.  I read and I read and I read.  An hour passed and Victor still wasn’t back.  The room was finally ready, so I bumped all the bags down a flight and up a flight and then to the elevator in a different building.  I settled our bags in the room and unpacked.

An hour and a half after Victor drove away from the hotel, he returned.  The “parking surcharge” listed in the hotel information turned out not to be for a hotel garage, but actually for a public parking garage, which was a considerable distance from the hotel.  It took him a while to find it.

Victor walked in and explained all this. I asked him if he remembered my broodje which I had forgotten in the pocket of the door.  (A broodje is a Flemish or Dutch sub, or hoagie, or po’boy, or hero, understand?)

Well, was Victor annoyed!  We had to walk all the way back to the garage to retrieve my broodje, so the car wouldn’t smell like rotten meat after six days parked in Amsterdam.  When we got there, I noticed a sign that said that you must retrieve your car after four days.  We were staying six days.  Aha!  That was something Victor didn’t notice when he parked. In order to enter the garage to collect your car, (or your broodje, as the case may be,) you need to scan your parking card.  Unfortunately,Victor had left the parking card in the car.  We were stymied. So we illegally walked down the driving ramp to the car.

I told Victor that we should ask the guy in the booth whether we could leave the car for the six days we were staying in Amsterdam, or we actually had to take it out, pay, and park it again on the fourth day.  He thought it was ridiculous, but we asked.  The guy in the booth said we did indeed have to unpark and repark our car before four days were up or we would be charged a great deal of money when we finally took the car out of the garage.

Then he handed us tram tickets.  The guy in the booth said that each of us had to take the tram twice or we would have to pay more to park the car.  We had to use the tram chip cards and make sure that they dinged both getting on and off the tram.  If the chips did not record that we used the tram twice, all bets were off.

We found a tram stop and waited. One came quite quickly and we got on, making sure both our cards dinged.  The cards said “One Hour” on them. Since the rest of the card was in Dutch, Victor asked the driver if we had to actually stay on the tram for one hour.  The driver said we did.  We sat down and wondered where the tram would take us in an hour’s time.  We looked at our watches.  (Um, okay, 4 o’clock, we have to ride until 5.) Then a young woman interrupted our thoughts to tell us that we didn’t actually have to stay on the tram for an hour, we just had the option of doing so.  We thanked her and got off the tram at the next stop and wound our way back to the hotel on foot.

Victor thanked me for forgetting my broodje.  Parking ended up costing us 8 € per day.  If I had not forgotten my broodje, we would have paid 50 € per day times six days, plus a few hours more, (which would count as an extra day,) equals 350 € which translates to about $490…just for parking!

Victor was very happy with me for being forgetful, which was a nice change of pace for me, since being forgetful usually gets me in Dutch, so to speak.

It’s spring, and all of you sexy people out there know just what I mean when I say, mmm-mm. It’s time for the return of the sexy.

The sun is bouncing brightly off that freshly waxed chest in front of you where its owner is parked enjoying a delicious shot of wheatgrass. He’s working on his computer like he’s got a novel brewing. Or maybe he’s a writer for GQ. He’s just made eye contact with you as if to say candidly, “I see you watching me being sexy over here. I, too, acknowledge your sexy.”

Oh, yeah.

That’s right. It’s been a long, cold run up here in the mountains, and I am happy to report that spring is finally in the air. The birds are birding, the chipmunks are chipmunking; and the bees…are beeing sexy. Yesterday, I was at a giant garage sale for my kid’s school. Helping out because volunteering is sexy. I didn’t end up doing much, but I did walk away with a great deal on a purple and black corset, which just goes to show, economy is sexy, too.

A lot has happened this last year. Grandpa got married. He’s 90 and she’s 96, but neither of them are a day over sexy. Together they witnessed the rise and fall of the USSR, the coming of age of Barbie, and the invention of the chocolate chip cookie. Had a preacher man say some words over them without actually signing a marriage license so they could be sexy together without getting their families all riled up over mingling their bank accounts. Last I heard, they had moved back to their single rooms over at the independent living center. A little space is sexy, too—oh yeah.

It’s spring and it’s time to be sexy. Two weeks ago, Slade Ham, Megan DiLullo, Uche Ogbuji, Richard Cox and Sam Demaris came up to our house. It had snowed 8 inches of fresh powder, so it wasn’t very sexy. Even so, we laughed, told stories, ate donuts and drank a lot of very sexy whiskey. At one in the morning, we broke out the kickboxing gear and sparred in the living room. I got the wind just about knocked out of me by a well-placed punch to the side by Slade. Brought me to my knees it was so sexy. Even Scott just shook his head from behind the video camera and didn’t rush to my defense. Megan put on some headgear like she was going to jump in but was eventually pulled back to the sofa by a 90 proof magnet. Uche broke out into some def poetry while Sam called us a bunch of high schoolers. Richard played Tiffany. There is nothing sexy about Tiffany. Donuts are sexy, though. Especially if you’re a dude made out of fried bread. Oh, yeah.

But Spring is in the air now, and all of those kinks have been smoothed over. No excuse to not be sexy. Even Simon Smithson and Zara Potts and the rest of you living down under don’t have to stop being sexy even though it’s well into autumn now for you. Autumn is a sexy word for fall. You’re down there and we’re up here and we’re passing like two sexy ships in the night. Passing the baton of sexy.

Don’t worry, though. We’ll have enough sexy in the northern hemisphere to carry you over. Nathaniel Missildine in France. David S. Wills in China. Steve Sparshott and James Irwin in England. Irene Zion over in Belgium(?) and Judy Prince somewhere in between. We’re creating a mesh network of sexy and beaming it south. Down below the earth’s belt. Now that’s sexy.

That’s right, Spring is in the air and it’s time to be sexy so slip out of those shoes and curl your toes deep into some warm sand somewhere. Wear something that ends in an ‘ini’. Order something cold that comes in a pineapple or coconut shell because drinks that come in their own skin are sexy. You know it. But it’s spring, so don’t worry too much about having to try. In spring, just about everything is sexy. In spring, even Tiffany is sexy.

So, keep on keepin’ on, wheatgrass boy. You’ve got a spot of green in the corner of your mouth there.

There you go.

Oh, yeah.




The little girl is five.

She has fine blond hair

in two narrow braids.

She is delicate and

bony

in her flimsy sundress.

She wears

little

pink sneakers

that light up

in back

when she walks.


She is petting my dog.


I love your dog,

she says.

She is so soft.


I do too,

I say.

Her tail is so pretty,

she says.


The fur

on this kind of tail

is called

feathering,

I say.


My sister

stabbed my brother,

she says.


Oh,

I say.


That must have

upset you.


Were you

frightened?


Oh no,

I was happy!

she says.


Oh,

I say.


You were happy

that your sister

stabbed

your brother?



She used a steak knife,

she says,

My sister is so smart.

She hid it in

our bedroom

under the mattress.


She did?

I say.


Yes,

she says,

she stabbed him

hard

over and over,

one!

two!

three!

four!


There was

blood everywhere.


He screamed like a baby,

so

momma heard him

and

she came in

and

she called the police.


Momma was

angry.


Now my

brother

can’t hurt us

anymore,

she says.


My brother is in

jail now

because

my sister is so

brave.


We have to go to

court,

then he will go to

prison.


Jail and prison

are not the same,

you know,

she says.


Prison is better

because they

keep him away

a long time,

she says.


What do you do

in court?

I say.


I don’t know,

she says,

the lady here

is going to tell me

about court.


She said not to

worry.

She knows

because my sister is brave

that now

everything

will be okay.


My brother

can’t hurt us

anymore,

she says.


I love your dog,

she says.

She is so soft.




IRENE ZION is a painter and frame-maker, mother of five, and former childhood playmate of the actor Michael Douglas (well, she took a cruise with him when she was a girl).


She lives in Miami Beach, a pleasant locale except when the temperature is low and female flashers display their wares on escalators.


She often writes about her family, the Zions, who are more interesting than your family, because they have funnier text exchanges.  This group includes Sara, who used to eat weird things; her Mercurial son (she can’t recall which); and the dearly-departed-but-never-forgotten Margot.


She and her husband, the sleep-deprived Victor, are world travelers.  They have been to Dubai, New Orleans, Chicago, Zimbabwe, and a long long road trip.


Once time, she fell and broke her ribs.  This was right before she attended a Fuckerware party, although the two are unrelated.


Oh, and you’re probably completely unaware of this, but Irene is also Lenore‘s mom.



I was painting, so Victor went to the grocery store without me.  At our Publix, we drive up a winding ramp to park on the second or third floor.  The supermarket itself is on the ground floor.

After you buy your groceries, you push your cart on a moving sidewalk, which is at about a 45∘ angle to take you and your cart back to your car.  The carts have brakes on them, which employ when the cart is on the belt, so that it can’t roll back toward you.



Victor got on the moving sidewalk.  Twenty feet ahead of him was a woman, also with a cart, about 30, wearing a very short skirt.

(This is a picture of where she would have been in relation to Victor. This woman is a stand-in for the short-skirted one in the story.)



She turned and looked right at Victor, my retired, 65 year old husband.  Then she turned back around and bent over and touched her toes.  She remained that way for about ten seconds.  She was not wearing underpants.

When she got off the ramp, she turned and looked at Victor.
Her face was blank.  She just looked at him and then walked away.

When Victor told me about this, I asked him what kind of car she was driving.  (That particular Publix is well known for having lavish cars like Bentleys, Austin Martins and Ferraris in the lot.)  Victor said he didn’t look.

I fully understand that there are peculiar people in Miami Beach.  I do.  But how could Victor not watch to see what kind of car a female flasher would be driving?  This is information anyone would want to know.  I will never understand Victor.