Wednesday, December 06, 2006

By a popular demand of one

So here it is, an excerpt from my 'novel', as requested by the much too kind Dave W. This is the Cranberry Bog monster section. Sadly, it is probably the best part of what I wrote in November and it has almost no connection to the rest of the 'novel'. Enjoy, if you dare.

I grew up in the heart of cranberry country, The Cranberry Capital of the World, even. And in 1980, that capital was undisputed, the great bogs of Wisconsin and southern New Jersey were still more than a decade away. If you didn't have a family that owned a cranberry bog or lived on a cranberry bog, you at least had a friend whose family owned a bog or worked on a bog. The demand and price per barrel was high, and cranberry crop was commonly referred to as red gold. While my familydidn'tn’t own any bogs, when I was ten we moved to a new house on the edge of several bogs, protected by native woodlands on one side and an abandoned rail bed on another. Having moved from the more densely populated center of town, the woods and bogs fascinated me. Although my parents warned me against going too deep in the woods on my own, whenever I was playing outside, I would naturally be drawn to the edge of the property line, and at no time was I drawn more than in the early fall, when the small fruit would begin to ripen and turn red and the growers would begin to flood the bogs for cultivation.
Now, mind you, as I try and relate the rest of the story, a story that I struggle to keep from eating at my thoughts, that I had a very active imagination as a child. If I had met Stan and Oliver when I was ten, I would likely have worshipped them as gods. My normal reading regimen was a combination of hand me down flying saucer tomes from my uncle, and newer books of Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, and the Loch Ness Monster that I had bought with my own hard earned allowance money. My parents would later wonder why I had suddenly packed up my books on the supernatural and replace with Scholastic Books World’s Greatest Running Backs 1981 and dog eared, used copies of Stan Fischler'’s Hockey Stars of 1974 (Go Stan Mikita!). It was because of that night on the bog in November of 1980.
My parents had gone to the Friday night supper at the local Elks Lodge and left me in the care of the WorldÂ's Sleepiest Babysitter. Now I loved the WorldÂ's Sleepiest Babysitter for several reasons. First of all, no matter what my parents left in the refrigerator for dinner, WSB would always order us a pepperoni pizza. Second of all, WSB would always doze off on the couch about fifteen minutes after we finished the pepperoni pizza. On most nights when my parents were out, this simply meant that I was in control of the television until my parents pulled into the driveway, at which point, I would switch the channel back to Dallas, and gently nudge WSB awake as I shuffled off to bed.
On this particular Friday night, however, I was determined to have a bigger adventure than watching the Friday Night Big Event movie. I was going to sneak off to the edge of the cranberry bog and see what it looked like under the night sky. Sure enough, fifteen minutes after the last piece of pepperoni pizza had been digested, WSB was snoring on the couch. I laced up my high top imitation leather Nikes, put on my Pittsburgh Steelers windbreaker, and softly made my way out the back screen door. I wasn't then, and still am not, an expert on the weather. But that day, there must have been a warm front that moved through the region. The sky was still slightly cloudy and the grass was still wet from the dayÂ's sudden downpours. A nearly full moon hung low in the sky, partially obscured by a medium haze. Even from the back door, I could see that there was a heavy fog rising off of the bog. This was going to be great, I told myself, heading through our neatly trimmed back lawn into the heavier brush at the edge of the woods. The straightest shot to the bog itself was along a dirt path that cut about one hundred yards through the woods. By the time I made my way to the edge of the bog under the hazy light of the moon, I might as well have been on the Scottish moors, or at the very least, on the set of a movie that takes place in the Scottish moors, the light of the moon and the foggy bog were so perfect. Being ten years old and alone in the woods, I wasn'’t exactly sure what I hope to accomplished, but I did know that as much as I was drawn to the woods and the bog and the daytime, the area at night held any even greater spell over me. I stuck my hands inside my Pittsburgh Steelers windbreaker and fished out my last piece of Bazooka Joe. I found a decent sized, flat rock near the edge of the bog, sat down, unwrapped my gum, started chewing, and soaked in the atmosphere.
And then I heard a slight rustling of the leaves from my right, from the area where the bog headed off even deeper into the woods.
No big deal, I thought, just the wind.
And then from a little closer, a twig snapped. And then another.
Squirrel maybe? At the worst, a dog, I thought. I nervously chewed my gum faster and sat up from my rock, prepared to make a fast getaway.
The noises were coming from my right, I edged closer to my left, back toward the path through the woods and my backyard.
Then what sounded like a much larger branch cracked to my right. Then another twig to my left.
The temperature felt like it had dropped suddenly from the inside of my body, while the outside of my body broke out in rapid sweating. The sounds of twigs and branches breaking had temporarily ceased, but a sudden smell hit me, causing me to gag on my gum and nearly knocking me over. My eyes began to water from the acrid, sulfur like smell, and as I wiped the tears from my eyes, they were replaced by the sweat dripping from my forehead. I had begun to run, but I was half blind and dizzy from the horrible odor and unsure of what direction I was heading in.
And then I saw it.
Two red eyes glowing in the night fog, as dark as, as dark as fully ripened cranberries. They danced and glinted at what I estimated to be a good seven feet off the ground. The creatureÂ's eyes were so mesmerizing, and my own eyes still wet with tears and sweat, that it took me a moment to take in the rest of its features. Aside from the crimson red eyes, the rest of the creature looked to be a shade of gray only infinitesimally darker than the fog that rose off the bog. While I took it to be over seven feet tall, I may have overestimated the creatures size, since I had crouched down low to the ground and begun sprinting off in the opposite direction. As I began to run, the creature took a swipe at me, barely nicking my Steelers windbreaker. The creature had abnormally long arms, longer than a human'’s, though thin and knobbed like a dog'’s leg, with a large, padded claw at the end.
With the creature cutting off my escape route home, I figured that my best chance for escape was to make a beeline though the undergrowth to the abandoned rail bed. I was hoping my small size would work to my advantage getting through the heavy brush and buy me time to get to the rail bed, which dumped out onto the street about a half mile from my home.
I assume that my heart was pounding, but I couldn't really tell you for sure. All I remember was that I was running like I was in a nightmare, feeling at once like I was running faster than I ever had in my life, yet at the same time, feeling like I was drowning in quicksand. Somehow, I managed to make it to the railbed, the cacophony of snapping twigs and branches had been replaced by a low full throated howl coming from the area where the undergrowth got measurably denser. My plan had been a success, but I was in no state to slow down and admire my Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys-like strategic victory. I sprinted as fast as I could to the street, and by the time I made it to the street, the only reason I slowed down on the last half mile to my home was because I was exhausted. When I got to my front yard, I didnÂ't want to go in the front door, worrying that I would be more likely to wake up WSB. But I also didn'’t want to go in through the back door, scared that the bog creature would be waiting there to snatch me up with its spindly arms and glowing cranberry eyes.
I decided to take my chances with the back door. I snuck back into the house, careful not to wake WSB yet, washed up and changed into my pajamas. About ten minutes later, I heard my parents pull into the driveway, so I changed the television back to her station, nudged her awake, and crawled underneath the covers of my bed, praying I was safe from the creature who had appeared out of the fog on the edge of the bog. I never mentioned what happened that night, and I was careful to never explore the cranberry bogs alone again, and I never, ever traveled back out there at night. When my parents asked me how I had ripped my Pittsburgh Steelers windbreaker, I told them it happened after school when I was wrestling with a couple of kids in the neihgborhood.
"“How are you guys on cryptozoology?" I asked Stan and Oliver as we continued to make our way down the highway.
"It'’s not our biggest area of expertise,"” Stan said. "“But in the circles that we travel, we do pick up a lot of overlapping conversations that tie some of your more exotic creatures in with government experimentation. What are you interested in?"
"Have you ever heard of some kind of a cranberry bog monster or creature?"” I asked.
"“Are we talking about the American Northeast?" Oliver asked.
"Yeah, you know, typical New England bog country,"” I said.
"A lot of the talk of creatures living in the woodlands near the bogs in New England is tied into Native American folklore," Stan said. "“Most of the legends revolve around spirits or the occassional hairy ape. The amazing thing is, that even with the modern reported sightings, even among those who claim to have absolutely no knowledge of the Native American legends, are pretty spot on with the descriptions from as many as 500 years ago."”
"“Have there been any reported sightings of these hairy apes?"” I asked.
"“They are pretty intermittent these days, maybe one every three or four years,"” Oliver said. "The last real big spate of sightings was back in the 1970s and early 80s."
"“Really. So if it'’s a Native American legend, what's it about?"” I asked.
"Remember, we'’re not experts on this," Stan said. "But I'’m pretty sure the legend revolves around a displaced peoples myth. To the Native Americans of the area, the hairy ape is known as the Ho Booka, and represents a race of large, not quite human creatures who were driven off the land by the Native Americans ancestors. The Ho Booka was commonly described as being nearly seven feet tall, covered in gray fur with long arms that looked almost canine. The Ho Booka would supposedly sneak up on unsuspecting indians who had wandered off in the night and try to drown them in the bogs or marshes."
"“What about the sightings thirty years ago; did anyone drown in a bog or marsh?"” I asked.
"“No drownings, but there were probably about three or four reported sightings a year for about five years,"” Oliver said. "Almost all of the reports were dismissed because they were made by teenagers or children, but practically all of the descriptions were pretty close to the descriptions of the Ho Booka. There is also some thought, that because of the creatures supposed gray fur, red eyes, and long, thin arms, that some reported alien sightings may have actually been Ho Booka sightings. There is even one school of thought that the Dover Demon was really a Ho Booka."”
"“Did you ever know anyone who saw a Ho Booka?" Stan asked.
"No, not personally,"” I said. "“Just growing up in the area, you know, there were always some whispers about a bog creature."”

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I'm a winner! Explaining where I've been for a month

So, as all two or three of you may have noticed, there was a decided lack of Endangered Coffee in November. But don't worry, other than some intermittent cramping of my left hand, I have not lost the ability to write badly. In fact, I spent the entire month of November writing very, very badly. For the second year in a row, I took a shot at National Novel Writing Month, and unlike last year, when I brashly announced my intentions right here on this very space and then crashed and burned after about 11,000 words, this year, I kept the novel writing on the down low so as not to embarrass myself with my inevitable failure. And this year, my reverse psychology paid off, as I crossed the 50,000-word mark a whole day early on November 29. So now, according to the whims of a silly website, I am a novelist. The only embarrassment I'll feel this year is if I actually let anyone read my so-called novel.

Let's just say that this blog posting is vastly more entertaining and better written than my novel. Hell, typing random words like kielbasa pelican oboe trans am over and over again would be vastly more entertaining and better written than my novel. Let's just say my novel did not have much in the way of plot, character development, or action. It does, however, have several incoherent transgressions about cranberry bog monsters and the alien plot to assassinate JFK that actually end up having nothing to do with the main story, which is about an encyclopedia salesman who is falsely accused of kidnapping and murder and then must find a rare hockey book and return it to Roswell, New Mexico.

At the very least, I'm thinking I might spell check the sucker and print out a copy for laughs. But for the most part, I'm going to keep my embarrassing musings to the internets.