lost time incident 63 – burned out signs

lost time incident 63
This week, we’ve got a few short pieces of fiction in convenient bite-sized form. They reach their conclusion before you have time to wonder what else you could be doing with your time. Additionally, there’s an actual slice of life, sliced from a week-and-a-half spent hosting my brother, who was visiting from Pennsylvania.

It’s much like every other week. No surprises. (Or is this how we lull you in to a state of complacency?) (It’s not.) (But isn’t that what someone would say if they were LULLING?)

Anyway. On with the show:


teenagers, you know
We were pretty typical small town kids. Jean jackets, cheap cigarettes. Bootleg cassettes and boomboxes with D batteries in basements, thin rugs on the concrete floor. Always drawing maps of the neighborhood with little five-pointed stars marking where there were supernatural occurrences.

A star for where there were lights spotted dancing in a half-built house in the new subdevelopment that’s still mostly dirt lots. A star for where Cheryl said she felt an unexpected cold spot on a summer night, as if she had been suddenly standing in front of an opened Amoco gas station’s refrigeration unit, looking for a Fruitopia or something. A star for where Bob “accidentally” ate human meat, which started the whole process where he became a wendigo, which is why we kept him locked in the basement’s bathroom pretty much full time.

For the first few weeks, Bob wasn’t too bad. Sure, he talked all the time about wanting to eat more human meat, but we could laugh it off. After all, he still liked to play SORRY with us on that rickety card table we had, or he’d still debate about the best era of Van Halen. He got a bit more furry than he used to be, but we were all going through some changes at the time. Whose body didn’t have unexpected hair, right?

Anyway, it ended up being a good thing that our pal Apollo, an exchange student, was staying with the Lammenwursts who ran the hardware store because we ended up needing a lot of chain to create a barrier over the basement bathroom door for Bob.

We were also starting to have some success with girls at about that time, and it’s a shame that Bob missed out on most of that. Through the door, during a lucid moment, he asked us if we could talk to Sarah on his behalf.

“You can tell her— I thought of this joke and you can tell her ‘You know what they say about wendigos… They take a while to warm up, but oh boy… when dey go…!’ Go tell her that and if she thinks it’s funny, maybe you guys can take all these chains down and she’ll go to the Autumn Formal with me.”

We didn’t tell Sarah anything.

Sarah hated wordplay.

the business
I had just splashed some rubbing alcohol into a drinking vase when she walked into my office looking like trouble. She was a pistol and her eyes were bullets and I hadn’t taken a gun safety course since the War. “What’s the story?” I said and her safety came off and it came to me that I was drunk and talking to my gun again. Another unsolvable case. My office was the underside of a couch. “I live here now,” I said, detectively.


burnt out signs
My younger brother was in town this last week, which means he got up close exposure to fraternal weirdness. For example, my brother, my wife and I were walking to the grocery store. I noticed that the sign above the Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts was partially burnt out, leaving something that looked like JO-A_IN lit up.

So I sang (to the tune of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine”) ♫ If you want to do crafts / you should speak with our staff / Jo-ain’s ♫

My wife Amanda immediately hated it, having never developed an appreciation for my sign-based silliness. She’s still never forgiven me for pointing out that a Thai restaurant on Solano Avenue can be sung like a Neil Diamond song: ♫ Sweet Basil Thai (BUM BUM BUM) ♫

Only a few steps further was another partially burned out sign on the side of the grocery store. Its PHARMACY sign was reduced to PH___ACY, prompting a bit of Seal (♫ We’re never gonna survive / unless / we get a little / phacy ♫ )

Amanda raised an eyebrow. “You wouldn’t go with Gnarls Barkley instead? Or even Patsy Cline?”

My brother frowned a bit in thought, then added “You should go with something Def Leppard-related. Because the sign is missing an ARM.”

We’re related, all right.

Further proof: Hours later, long after we’re back home and settled in, my brother comes back inside from smoking a cigarette and serenades us with ♫ Pour some sugar PHA-CY! ♫

Anyway. He’s on a plane back to the East Coast and I’m sure Amanda’s glad to have this sort of monkeyshines reduced by half. But it was nice to have a week of “it’s not just me” moments.


ending theme song
Our header image for this week’s newsletter is from Ian Keltie (http://www.iankeltie.com/). I snatched it off some image-sharing site years ago, but was conscientious enough to save the file with the artist name because I knew that at some point, I’d need to offer a credit. Apparently.

Thanks for reading! Or thanks for deleting this email unread! Whatever you’ve done— and you KNOW what you did— thank you for doing it! You’re the only one who could do it!

Now I’m going to move on with the rest of the day, which I’m hoping is going to include progress on a project I started back in February. (Yeesh.) But if you want to help me procrastinate, just hit me up and say you want some new music and I’ll send you something via Bandcamp. Those are the other browser windows I have open… music to listen to while I work.

Save me from productivity.

See you later, alligators.

—Michael Van Vleet