Discover more from Fiction for the Cosmically Disturbed
A Week in the Life
Less Than Pulp, Issue 58
On Monday evening, I met up with my brother at a bar called The Clubhouse. It’s located on the outskirts of Newtown, quite literally on the other side of the tracks. The tracks in question are decommissioned and overgrown by grass and trees, half-buried under dirt and stone, but not entirely invisible or forgotten. Newtown is too nice for a place like The Clubhouse, and yet the bar continues to exist. That’s quite a testament to its charm.
The Clubhouse holds a lot of history for me. The first time I went there, it was after a late night at my warehouse job with two of my supervisors. We did shots of Jack Daniels and drank lagers. I immediately liked the vibe of the place; it was a shithole that seemed to want so desperately to become good. I’ll always appreciate a valiant effort, even when it fails—maybe especially then.
The night ended with one of my supervisors stroking the barmaid’s hair and the other one serenading me with songs by A Perfect Circle. I left reasonably okay to drive, while they hung around after closing time. God knows how the night ended for them and the barmaid. I didn’t bother to ask the following day.
The next time I remember going was on an early date with Jean. Some dude asked if she was my girlfriend. I responded that it was a “work-in-progress.” Jean told me that was a good answer.
It became a regular hangout for us and our coworkers sometime later. We were still working at the same nearby business (though both supervisors had moved on), and a bunch of us liked going out for karaoke, which The Clubhouse had every Thursday. My brother was an important part of that crew, singing “Rosalita” and “Proud Mary” with admirable heart and swagger.
There was no karaoke this past Monday, though. We just sat outside drinking Guiness and catching up on shit. He’s getting a new job and moving in with his long-term girlfriend early next month. I’d suspected last time I spoke with him on the phone that he was finding some of his old self after a difficult number of years. It was cool to see the revival in person.
Since we’re staying with family, Jean was able to join us at The Clubhouse once the kids went to bed. Funnily enough, the moment that may be most responsible for my horror fandom came up in our conversation. My brother and I remember the event almost exactly the same way, only he remembers it happening at a different house than I do.
Long story short, it was Halloween night. We went to visit a neighbor’s place and were told to take the candy out of a bowl on a table next to a sleeping mummy. When we reached for the candy, the mummy sat up, and my brother and I went running for our lives, not giving a single shit about the candy in the bowl or any that we’d already stuffed into our pillowcases.
When I mentioned it was the moment that made me a horror lover for life, my brother said it was the moment that all but guaranteed he’d never enjoy it like I do.
On Tuesday, we celebrated my son’s birthday with his aunt, uncle, and cousins. He’s seven now. It sometimes seems like he grew up overnight, but it also seems like he’s always been here with us. The Medium we saw the other week said our kids choose us, somehow already knowing us before they come kicking and screaming into the flesh space. I sometimes wonder if there’s any truth to that.
I logged off work early and took him and his sister to an indoor trampoline park. We bounced hard for half an hour straight, then spent the rest of the time building fortresses with foam blocks. The section with the blocks was technically for kids six and under, but since he was only a day older than that age limit, I told him it was okay to bend the rules. At one point, he asked me to bury him in the blocks, and I was happy to oblige. His two-year-old sister was very concerned, though, and kept trying to unbury him until she realized that we were playing a game.
My mom came for his birthday dinner, bearing gifts for both him and his sister. We all ate tacos and cupcakes. I woke up the next morning sore from jumping on trampolines.
On Wednesday, I got a message from Woman’s World. I’d been corresponding with the magazine regarding some stories my mom had published with them in the mid-90s. They informed me that they’d found one in their December ‘96 issue and sent me a PDF of it. The story was a short crime piece called “Life Expectancy.”
My mom’s relationship with creativity has always been difficult to pin down. I know she painted a lot when she was younger. She also went pretty hard on the writing stuff before getting two “Mini-Mysteries” published by Woman’s World and never writing fiction again. I used to find that baffling, but after having a number of books published myself, I kind of get it now. Sometimes, it’s just enough to prove to yourself that you can finish something and get it in print. Maybe that needs to be enough because the rest of this feels like a crapshoot most of the time.
In case you’re wondering, the story’s good! Mom said it was strange seeing it again, but that she was happy I took the time to find it. She got paid $500 for this maybe 3,000-word story. Learning this led to a conversation about how the written word used to hold more monetary value. I suspect this is because it had less to compete against for people’s attention.
Then again, the books and authors who do get through do huge numbers. I’m thinking specifically of your Colleen Hoover-types. I keep meaning to read her stuff.
Thursday night I watched a movie called Psyched by the 4-D Witch, a 1973 sexploitation movie about a young woman who embarks on a series of psychedelic sexual misadventures after contacting the spirit of a witch. It is an incredibly low-budget affair, with only a few actors, in-camera effects, and most of the story relayed via voiceover. You couldn’t make this sort of movie today—and not because of the reasons people usually cite when mourning the works of yesteryear. Instead, it’s simply too amateurish and too difficult to categorize (read: “sell”). There’s a purity to its level of camp that makes it impossible to tell if its creator is a Magician or a Fool. It’s on Tubi, but I watched it (ad-free) on The Internet Archive. If you have even a passing interest in this sort of thing, I recommend doing the same.
I can’t for the life of me remember what I did on Friday. That’s Dad life for you!
Anyway, things may be changing here in Less Than Pulp land, so stay tuned!
Meanwhile, here's a view from inside a covered bridge.