Captain Spaulding on Skull Island

Since we are in the midst of a Stephen King renaissance, and since today is his 72nd birthday, here’s a list of some of my favorite Stephen King short stories.

In chronological order:

“Gray Matter,” 1973 in NIGHT SHIFT

“One for the Road,” 1977 in NIGHT SHIFT

“The Jaunt,” 1981 in SKELETON CREW

“Survivor Type,” 1982 in SKELETON CREW

“Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” 1984 in SKELETON CREW

 “Rainy Season,” 1989 in NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES

“The Man in the Black Suit,” 1994 in EVERYTHING’S EVENTUAL

“All That You Love Will Be Carried Away,” 2001 in EVERYTHING’S EVENTUAL

“The Dune,” 2011 in THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS

Laurie,” 2018 Uncollected – Available Online

Happy Birthday, Stevie-Baby!

I wrote this in the wee hours of this morning.  It’s in response to the tragedy and absurdity of the last few days.

LAZY-DAY OBSERVATIONS ON FERAL HOGS by John Weagly

(Lights up.  The porch of a rural farmhouse in El Dorado, Arkansas.  PENELOPE and HATTIE sit in rocking chairs drinking lemonade, looking out at the yard and enjoying the day.  There is never a sense of urgency to anything they say or do.)

PENELOPE

Nice day.

HATTIE

Hot.

PENELOPE

Dry.

HATTIE

Dusty.

PENELOPE

But nice.

(Pause.  They enjoy the view.)

PENELOPE

Huh.  Would you look at that.

HATTIE

What?

PENELOPE

A sounder

HATTIE

What’s a sounder?

PENELOPE

See those hogs over there?

HATTIE

In the yard?  By those kids?

PENELOPE

Yep.

HATTIE

I see ‘em.

PENELOPE

A herd of hogs is called a sounder.

HATTIE

A herd of hogs?

PENELOPE

A herd of hogs, a pack of pigs, a swarm of swine, a brood of boar, a rabble of razorback, a proletariat of porkers.

HATTIE

A sounder.

PENELOPE

Yep.

HATTIE

Huh.  You learn something new every day.

(Pause.  They look at the hogs.)

HATTIE

There must be thirty of ‘em.

PENELOPE

More like fifty.

HATTIE

I’ve seen groups of hogs before, but never more than twenty.

PENELOPE

Sounder.

HATTIE

I’ve seen sounders of hogs before, but never more than twenty.

PENELOPE

That’s a damn big sounder.

HATTIE

I wonder if they’re going to eat those kids.

PENELOPE

I hope not.

HATTIE

Me, too.  That would make for a regretful day and many awkward conversations.

PENELOPE

It’d be a shame.

HATTIE

A real shame.

(Pause.  They watch the kids.)

PENELOPE

Maybe we should try to do something.

HATTIE

About the hogs and the kids?

PENELOPE

About the sounder and the kids.

HATTIE

I don’t see what we can do.

PENELOPE

One of those hogs just ate little Bobby Lipton.

HATTIE

That’s too bad.  He was a nice boy.

PENELOPE

He was.

HATTIE

But I don’t see what we can do.

(Pause.  They sip lemonade.)

PENELOPE

You know, I think there’s a pretty big patch of quicksand over in that eastern corner of the yard.

HATTIE

Quicksand?

PENELOPE

Yep.

HATTIE

Quicksand is dangerous.  How come nobody ever covered it up or filled it in?

PENELOPE

We thought about it, but covering up quicksand just makes it angry.

HATTIE

Makes sense.  You don’t want angry quicksand.

PENELOPE

What if we, both of us…

HATTIE

A couple of those hogs just got Rhonda Sue Peligrino.

PENELOPE

What if we, both of us, thought real hard about sending those hogs over to that quicksand.

HATTIE

You mean, make that sounder do what we want – just by thinking about it?

PENELOPE

Yep.

HATTIE

Get ‘em to the quicksand and those hogs would sink.

PENELOPE

All fifty of ‘em.

HATTIE

That’d take an awful lot of really serious thought.

PENELOPE

I bet the two of us could do it.

HATTIE

I don’t know…

PENELOPE

We’ve got to try.  They just tore apart the Wallace twins.

HATTIE

Okay.  Let’s go for it.

PENELOPE

Good.  Now, on three.  One.

HATTIE

Two.

PENELOPE & HATTIE

Three.

(PENELOPE and HATTIE close their eyes and think as hard as they can.  After a moment, they relax and speak.)

HATTIE

Did it work?

PENELOPE

Let’s open our eyes and see.

(PENELOPE and HATTIE cautiously open their eyes.)

HATTIE

Those hogs aren’t any closer to the quicksand.

PENELOPE

There are a few less kids, though.

HATTIE

That’s hardly our fault.

PENELOPE

Right.  We did everything we could.

HATTIE

Yep.  If feral hogs don’t want to obey our brainwaves and wallow into quicksand…

PENELOPE

…There’s nothing we can do about it.

HATTIE

I guess people just shouldn’t have kids.

PENELOPE

Yep.  Not around sounders, anyway.

(Pause.)

HATTIE

Nice day.

PENELOPE

Hot.

HATTIE

Dry.

PENELOPE

Dusty.

HATTIE

Hogs eating the children.

PENELOPE

But nice.

(Lights down.)

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Harlan Ellison RIP

June 30th, 2018

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On June 28th, author Harlan Ellison passed away in his sleep (the same day Rod Serling died in 1975).  He could be controversial, but I loved his work.  He was very influential on my own writing.

Here are a few reminisces.

In 1987, I was cast as Everett in an adaptation of “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ said the Ticktockman.” It was for a class project, adapting for the stage or something like that, and we only did a reading, but it was a blast. That was my first real exposure to Ellison’s work.

Back before I bought everything online, I spent a lot of time in used bookstores. The first author I would look for was Harlan Ellison. His books always seemed like rare treasures when I stumbled across one, and I would purchase them without trepidation. His work is kept on the “Special” bookcase I have next to my desk.

In 1998, I was at an opening night party for a play I’d worked on (David Goodis’ BLACK FRIDAY). The playwright/adapter was talking about a short story he’d read about a homeless woman with a stuffed animal. I said, “’Soft Monkey’ by Harlan Ellison?” He found it extremely impressive that I knew the story. He was working on an anthology series of crime stories that he was planning to pitch to HBO or Showtime (Like FALLEN ANGELS, but strictly crime and no detective tales). He brought me on to help him find appropriate stories and made me an associate producer. Sadly, the project never went anywhere, but thanks to having read “Soft Monkey,” I had a brief career in television.

In 2015, I started  project with Ellison’s “Best of” collection THE TOP OF THE VOLCANO. I read a story a month. It took almost 2 years.  Even though I’d read 80% of the stories before, it was still a delightful project.

 

Here’s a personal favorite list:

‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

Jeffty is Five

The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore

He Who Grew Up Reading Sherlock Holmes

The Man Who Was Heavily Into Revenge

How’s the Night Life on Cissalda?

Star Trek 1967 – “City on the Edge of Forever”

The Outer Limits 1964 – “Demon With A Glass Hand”

The Twilight Zone 1985 – “Paladin of the Lost Hour”

 

For more info:

Here’s a good Recommended List from The Portalist.

Here’s a good article on the good and bad of him written by Nick Mamatas for Legacy.com.

And I highly recommend the documentary DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH.

R.I.P.

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Hey look!  I wrote a new holiday story!

“Altercation on Ballet Boulevard”

You can read it at Out of the Gutter.

So do that.  Go read it.

Happy holidays!

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Just in time for the Halloween season, read my new short story “Alleyway Alvin” over at Out of the Gutter.

Part of Flash Fiction Offensive’s Gutteral Screams.

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RIP Harry Dean Stanton

September 15th, 2017

Here’s the thing with Harry Dean Stanton – There aren’t a lot of movies that can necessarily be called “Harry Dean Stanton” Movies (Only “Paris, Texas, “Lucky”” and “Repo Man” come to mind).

He was more of a “Cool!  Harry Dean Stanton is in this!” kind of actor.  Even if he’s just sitting in the background, playing cards and smoking a cigarette, he makes a movie or TV show more interesting.  For instance – I got a big smile on my face when he showed up for his short scene in “The Avengers.”

Here are some favorites:

Two-Lane Blacktop, 1971

Alien, 1979

Escape From New York, 1981

Paris, Texas, 1984

Repo Man, 1984

Wild At Heart, 1990

The Straight Story, 1999

I assume I’ll add “Lucky” from this year to this list, once I see it.

And I really enjoyed the documentary about him, “Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction,” 2012

Rest in Peace.

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Here’s my first voice over gig – the trailer for Jory John’s book THE BAD SEED.

I am The Bad Seed.

Enjoy!

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It seems like, in the late-80’s/early-90’s, a lot of the playwrights I knew (especially male) went through a phase where they imitated Sam Shepard.  Almost every evening of short plays that I saw had at least one Shepard imitation.

I was always jealous of that.

I love Shepard’s plays, especially the earlier idiosyncratic ones like “4-H Club” and “Cowboy Mouth” and “Back Bog Beast Bait.”  I always wanted to write something like him, but it wasn’t my milieu.

This is the closest I ever came.

R.I.P.

 

Lizard Heat

-a Sam Shepard pastiche-

by John Weagly

 

(Lights up.  A room in a run-down motel next to a desolate highway.  It’s 2:37 in the morning.  The room is disheveled, particularly the bed.  RANDI stands at the window.  She is in her early-thirties and, like the room, tousled and a little unkempt.  She smokes a cigarette as she watches life outside.  After a moment, TROY enters from outside.  He is also in his early-thirties, rugged and worse-for wear.)

 

RANDI

Where do you think they’re all going?  Those people out there on the highway, going past.  Somewhere sunny, I bet.  Sunny and warm.  Did you know you can get sun burnt on the water?  That’s odd to me.  I can picture being in the desert and getting burnt and dry and chapped.  That makes sense.  But on the water?  You’re floating on a raft in the middle of the ocean and you can get burnt to a crisp, even though you’re surrounded by wetness.  You could even be in the water, floating around, letting your arms and legs flow back and forth, moving with the currents, and you could get burnt.  That’s odd to me.

 

TROY

The sun is the same over the desert and the ocean.

 

RANDI

I suppose.

 

TROY

It’s always the same.  The sun is always hot.  It’s the sun.

 

RANDI

Even with ice.  You could be at the North Pole or Antarctica, surrounded by ice, and get sun burnt.  Assuming the sun’s out, of course.  You could feel your skin blistering and burning, popping, growing scaly – all while you’re slowly freezing to death.

 

TROY

What are you even talking about?

 

RANDI

I just wonder where they’re all going, that’s all.  All those people going past.

 

TROY

There’s nobody out there.

 

(Pause.)

 

RANDI

Where were you?

 

TROY

I went out for a walk.

 

RANDI

I thought you’d left.  I nodded off and when I opened my eyes again you were gone.

 

TROY

I’m right here.

 

RANDI

Did you turn up the thermostat?  It’s awfully warm in here.

 

TROY

There’s always heat.

 

RANDI

What’s that mean?

 

TROY

Do you ever walk at night?  Late at night?

 

RANDI

Not this late.

 

TROY

I always expect to see stars.  I walk and look up at the sky, trying to find them.  I think the more I walk, the more I’ll see because the later it gets, the more stars come out.  I don’t know why I think that, I don’t think there’s any scientific reasoning behind it.  It’s probably something from my childhood.  Anyway, it never works.  I walk and walk and walk for hours and I don’t see any stars.

 

RANDI

There are too many lights.  You’re too close to civilization.  That’s why you don’t see them.

 

TROY

Maybe.  Maybe they’re just not there.

 

(TROY walks into the bathroom.  We hear a faucet turn on.)

 

RANDI

I can name all the constellations.

 

TROY (Off-stage.)

Okay.

 

RANDI

Don’t believe me?

 

TROY (Off-stage.)

No.  That’s stupid.  Nobody can name all of the constellations.

 

RANDI

I bet someone can.

 

TROY (Off-stage.)

When I look in the bathroom mirror and stare into my own eyes, looking deep, going down into them, into my eyes, I try to see into my brain so I can see the thoughts I’m having.  When I can do that, when I can see my thoughts and ideas and meditations, when I can see the reasons for why I think what I think, that’ll be something.  That’ll be the next level.

 

RANDI

How about ten?  Believe I can name ten constellations?

 

(TROY enters from the bathroom.)

 

TROY

Maybe.  I can’t.  I doubt you can.

 

RANDI

Cassiopeia.  And Virgo.  And Orion.  And the Big Dipper.  And Ursa Major.  And Ursa Minor.  And…

 

TROY

I don’t think the Big Dipper is actually a constellation.

 

RANDI

It is.  It’s made of stars.

 

TROY

Yeah, but it’s not an actual constellation.

 

RANDI

Then what is it?

 

TROY

It’s just a bunch of stars.

 

(Pause.)

 

RANDI

I can’t think of any more.

 

TROY

That’s only five.

 

RANDI

You interrupted me.  I could’ve done it if you hadn’t interrupted me.

 

TROY

It’s still only five.

 

(Pause.)

 

RANDI

Why did you come back?

 

TROY

What do you mean?

 

RANDI

Why not just leave, sneak away.  It’s not like you owe me anything.  I don’t even know your name.

 

TROY

It’s Troy.

 

RANDI

Mine’s…

 

TROY

Randi.  You told me.  I remember.

 

RANDI

You don’t owe me anything.

 

TROY

I guess I didn’t want to be a jerk.

 

RANDI

I would’ve.  I’d have left, snuck out.

 

TROY

You still can.  I won’t stop you.

 

(Pause while RANDI thinks about leaving.  She decides to stay.)

 

RANDI

What do you do?

 

TROY

Telling you what I do for a living will make this less anonymous.

 

RANDI

We already know each other’s names.

 

TROY

Lizards.

 

RANDI

Lizards?  Really?

 

TROY

Lizards.  Reptiles.  Exotic pets.  I raise them and sell them with tender loving care.  Iguanas.  Geckos.  Chameleons.  Skinks.  Basilisks.  Tuataras.  Chuckwallas.  Horned Devils.  Bearded Dragons.  That’s what I do for a living.

 

RANDI

Really?

 

TROY

Why would I lie to you about lizards?

 

RANDI

Where do you get them?

 

TROY

Some I breed.  Some I pick up here and there.

 

RANDI

Is it true they grow back their tails?

 

TROY

They do.

 

RANDI

Regrowth.

 

TROY

Is that what you want?

 

RANDI

What?

 

(TROY approaches RANDI.)

 

TROY

If that’s what you want, I’ll chop off your tail little lizard.

 

RANDI

Stop it!

 

TROY

I’ll chop off your tail, we can see if it grows back!

 

RANDI

Cut it out!

 

(TROY chases RANDI around the motel room.  He chants as she giggles and squeals.)

 

TROY

Chop it off!  Chop it off!  Come here little lizard!  Chop it off!  Chop it off!  Chop it off!  Come here!  Chop it off!  Chop it off!  Little lizard!  Chop it off!  Chop it off!

 

(TROY finally catches RANDI.)

 

RANDI

Don’t they use their tongues, too?

 

TROY

For what?

 

RANDI

To hear or smell, or something like that?

 

TROY

Something like that.

 

RANDI

Something like that.

 

(TROY flicks his tongue in and out, licking RANDI, teasing her.  They flick their tongues on each other.)

 

TROY

They can sit around, flicking their tongues in and out, figuring out what’s going on around them.

Some of them do that.  Flick!  Flick!  Flick!  Some use their tongue to catch food.  They’ve got a rough, sticky surface and they can use it to catch insects and bugs and birds.

 

RANDI

Birds?

 

TROY

Small ones.  Big lizards, little birds.

 

(RANDI pushes him away.)

 

RANDI

I like birds.

 

(RANDI goes back to the window.  Pause.)

 

RANDI

I’m married.

 

TROY

Are you?

 

RANDI

It’s very hot in here.

 

TROY

Take it in.

 

RANDI

Seven years tomorrow.  Married for seven years.

 

TROY

Happy anniversary.

 

RANDI

I just… It’s such a long time.  After a few years of marriage you get… cold inside.  The blood, the bones, the heart – they all get cold.  You feel yourself turn into a distant, bitter, icy nothing.  I don’t know if it happens to all married people, but it happened to me.

 

TROY

Do you love him?

 

RANDI

I don’t.

 

TROY

No?

 

RANDI

I need love.

 

TROY

Leave him.

 

RANDI

I can’t.

 

TROY

Why not?

 

RANDI

Are you married?

 

TROY

No.

 

RANDI

Ever been married?

 

TROY

No.

 

RANDI

Then you wouldn’t understand.

 

TROY

Just go.

 

RANDI

What?

 

TROY

Sneak away.  From me.  From your husband.  From all of this, whatever all of this is.  Go out there, get on the highway and see where you end up.

 

RANDI

Like all of them.

 

TROY

There’s no one out there.

 

RANDI

It wouldn’t be enough.  I need change.  Real change.

 

TROY

Real change isn’t anything.

 

RANDI

I need to change.

 

TROY

That’s what you want?

 

RANDI

It’s hot in here.

 

TROY

What about your husband.

 

RANDI

My husband doesn’t matter to me.

 

TROY

That’s cold-blooded.

 

RANDI

I know.

 

TROY

Maybe it is time for you to change.

 

RANDI

Regrowth.

 

TROY

Is that what you want?

 

RANDI

I want to change.  Leave it all behind in the dust and sorrow.

 

TROY

You’re cold-blooded, Randi.

 

RANDI

No.  I just…

 

TROY

Like a lizard.

 

RANDI

No.

 

TROY

A reptile.

 

RANDI

It’s not that…

 

TROY

You’re a lizard, Randi.  Cold-blooded!

 

RANDI

No.

 

TROY

A lizard, Randi.  A reptile.  A lizard.

 

RANDI

I love.  I need love!  The stagnation.  It kills it.  The normal of the every day after day after day.  It’s not me.  It’s not my fault.  It’s not my husband’s fault.  I’m someone else.

 

(RANDI starts to move around; twirling, spinning, dancing; interpreting their words through movement.)

 

TROY

You’re a lizard, Randi.  A reptile.

 

RANDI

Cold-blooded.

 

TROY

Yes!

 

RANDI

No!  No, no, no!

 

TROY

Cold-blooded.  A lizard.

 

RANDI

The lizard of love!

 

TROY

You’re a lizard, Randi.  A lizard!

 

RANDI

I’m not!  No, I’m not!

 

TROY

Cold-blooded!  Cold-blooded!

 

RANDI

No.

 

TROY

A lizard.

 

RANDI

No!

 

TROY

Yes!  Yes, Randi.  Yes!

 

RANDI

No!  Please, no!

 

TROY

A lizard.

 

RANDI

The lizard of love!

 

TROY

You’re a lizard.

 

RANDI

A lizard.

 

TROY

A lizard, Randi.  A lizard.

 

RANDI

The lizard of love.

 

TROY

Yes, Randi.  Yes.

 

RANDI

A lizard.

 

TROY

Yes.

 

RANDI

The lizard of love!

 

TROY

Yes!  Yes!

 

RANDI

I’m a lizard.  A reptile.

 

TROY

Yes.

 

RANDI

Cold-blooded.

 

TROY

Yes.

 

RANDI

The lizard of love.

 

TROY

Cold-blooded.  You’re cold-blooded.  Cold-blooded.

 

(RANDI has evolved into a lizard.  She lays on the bed as though sunning herself on a rock.)

 

TROY

There was this pond.  In a pasture.  Next to a barn.  I was driving past, on a highway somewhere in the Midwest.  The pond was frozen.  And the first snow of the season had fallen, covering the pond with a cold blanket.  I pulled over and got out of my truck, hopped a fence and walked out on this dock that extended into the pond.  I swept away some snow with my hand and sat down, looking out at all of that unblemished white.  It was cold.  I looked up at the sky and saw hundreds of thousands of millions of stars.  I sat and watched them.  They didn’t do anything, but I sat and watched them, watching my breath cloud in the frozen air when I exhaled.  After a while, I stood up from the dock.  My frozen bones gave off icicle cracks.  I got back in my truck and turned on the heat.  The heat felt nourishing.  I continued on my way, leaving the pond and the pasture and the stars behind me.  I didn’t know the constellations then and I don’t know them now.  But there is always heat.

 

(TROY lies down on top of RANDI, embracing her as the lights slowly fade.)

 

-the end-

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R.I.P. George Romero

July 17th, 2017

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The world of cinema lost an icon yesterday with the death of George A. Romero.

His influence on the horror genre cannot be understated.  Before Night of the Living Dead, zombies were just brainless automatons used as cheap labor.  After Night of the Living Dead, they will forever be associated with flesh-eating monsters.

George Romero invented what we now think of as zombies.

I have so many specific memories of seeing his movies, all of them prefaced by reading articles and (more importantly) seeing photos of his work in Fangoria magazine…

Watching Knightriders at a cast party for a Quincy Community Little Theater production of Camelot I was in in 1983.

Endless viewings of my Betamax copy of Dawn of the Dead with high school friends.

Staying up a little bit extra late every Sunday night and watching his TV series Tales from the Dark Side on WGN.

Seeing Monkey Shines during a hot summer in college with someone very special.

Going to see The Dark Half with my future room-mate on a trip up north to Chicago to look for an apartment.

And Creepshow… One of my favorite movies of all time.  I have a lot of milestones associated with Creepshow.  Suffice to say that the first time I saw it was when my Dad took me to see it at the Quincy Mall movie theater and one of the most recent times was on a first date with a girl I fancied.  She attacked me half-way through.  I’ve lived with her for 15 years.  We have an original Creepshow movie poster on our wall.

Here are a couple of very nice remembrances from Edgar Wright (Director of Shaun of the Dead and Baby Driver) and Eric Vespe (“Quint” of Ain’t It Cool News).

And, finally, here’s a video of me living the dream in Monroeville, PA:

Rest in Peace, Maestro.

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If you’re in the Sligo, Ireland area, my short play “Ava Takes Up Aviation” is being produced by The Rabbit’s Riot Theatre Company as part of their WHERE WE ARE NOW LGBT + THEATRE FESTIVAL.

The festival runs June 8th thru 10th.

You can read more about it here.

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