Mannequin Monday – If stupid were sand…

photo of laughing mannequin, credit: Antiquesnavigator

Putting a grin on our faces isn’t easy these days. I share a few lines of humor from two books I recently read. Authors James McBride with Deacon King Kong and Louise Penny with All the Devils Are Here drape our weekly mannequin in smiles.

And I offer another short story of mine, about a writer’s own King Kong.

This Week’s Story

I enjoy finding humor in a book, especially when it’s funny enough to jump off the page. Genuine humor, not ugly or bitter. The kind of humor that reveals truth without leaving a person undone.

book cover for Deacon King Kong

Here are a few lines from James McBride’s recent book Deacon King Kong that I enjoyed. The story is set in South Brooklyn in the late 1960s, filled with the people living in and around a housing project. Black, Hispanic, Irish, Italian. The central character, called Deacon King Kong, called Sportcoat, called anything but his birth name, fills the pages with his humor. He is termed a deacon because of his affiliation with a local church. The running joke – anyone hearing his name for the first time wants to know what a deacon does.

On hearing the deacon’s name, a person asks, “What do deacons do?” The reply: “Carry eggs around, pay bar bills, quilt spaghetti – I don’t know.”

Describing a stranger: “He had a lot of pockmarks on his face.” “That’s nothing,” Miss Izi said. “That could be from learning to use a fork.”

Talking about local gangsters: “Some of those goons…couldn’t fill in the return address on an envelope.”

And one man calls out another’s craziness: “Your cheese done slid off your cracker.”

Someone describes a church lady who has a fling every year: “Her once-a -year sin jamboree…”

From another book, this one Louise Penny’s latest mystery All the Devils Are Here, a teacher describes tutoring a young man who is “as dumb as they come”: “If stupid were sand, he’d be half the Sahara.”

A few fun lines to put a smile on our faces this week.

My Current Writing

Campsite Twelve

A moment after sunset. A Toyota RAV-4 rolled down the dirt access road and turned into an empty campsite. Campsite Twelve. The driver stopped the car on a concrete slab. Darkness was dropping fast. Tall pines surrounded the campsite. The nearest site was a hundred yards to the east.

The driver reached for a bag from the fast food place he passed on his way in. Two burgers, fries. A large Coke, easy ice. He slurped the drink, sighing as the drink bubbled in his mouth and down his throat.

picture of well-traveled Toyota RAV-4

Not much to look at here. Trees and dirt. The restrooms and showers were down the road a bit. 

The driver chewed his food slowly. When he finished, there would be nothing to do except sleep. Too early for that.

He finished the food. Balled up the wrappers. Reached up and turned off the dome light. No need attracting moths and mosquitos. He found a trash can out on the access road. Walking back to his car, he stumbled on a couple of pine cones. A metaphor? he thought. As he approached the car, he caught a whiff of something. Cigar smoke? Just a hint. Must be drifting over from the neighboring campsite. He leaned against the Toyota. Breathed in the scent of pine, of warm earth.

And the scent of hot metal. 

It had been a long drive. He was on his way to a writers retreat. Tomorrow he would reach the location by noon. A last-ditch effort. A five day escape from the black cloud that hung over his writing. His not writing.

His plan – at least half his novel before the end of the retreat. In his mind, he called the book his King Kong. A monster sitting on his shoulders. The story had adventure, dark deeds, a plot filled with twists. He had most of it worked through in his head. But nothing on paper. Zero. This week it would elude him no more.

The writer pulled a blanket from the back of his RAV-4, climbed into the back seat, cracked one window just a bit.

May as well sleep. He would be up with the sun. Ready for the last leg of the trip.

The writer dozed off. Something woke him after a short time. A noise? No, the cigar smoke. Stronger now. Unmistakable. He lifted his head slowly, peered out the window. Total darkness. Nothing but a few distant animal sounds. An owl, maybe. 

In the corner of his eye, he glimpsed a tiny light. It grew brighter, dimmed again. As though someone were drawing on a cigarette. Or a cigar.

What the hell?

The writer reached for the tire iron he always kept under the seat. Gripped it firmly. Got the courage to peer again at the light. There were two now. Side by side. Glowing a deep yellow. The driver forced his eyes to adjust to the dark. He was beginning to make out shapes. Individual pine trees. The gap where the access road passed the campsite.

A dark shape began to emerge.

He stared at the twin lights. They appeared to be high off the ground. Eight, ten feet, maybe. A dark shape began to emerge. Moving toward his car. 

The writer reached up to be sure the dome light switch was still off. He opened the door on the side away from the shape, and slid out quietly. Left the door ajar. He crouched down. Moved on all fours, across the concrete pad, through the pine cones, and into the trees. He gripped the tire iron tightly. He kept going till he was about fifty feet from the edge of the campsite.

He stopped. Crouched behind a wide tree.

The shape with the two lights, lights now bigger, appeared to move closer to the car. The smell was stronger now. Not cigar smoke. No. An animal odor. Dark, reeking, almost putrid. 

The writer covered his nose to prevent gagging on the odor.

In the darkness, his car appeared to be rocking. Swaying. What the hell is going on? Someone playing a prank?

He saw the Toyota rock side to side. Suddenly one side lifted far off the ground. The car teetered on two wheels. Then it tipped over. Rolled onto its roof. 

A crash, grinding metal, glass shattering. 

A screech. The shape pulled the driver’s door back on its hinges. Peered in. Reached in, probing around, looking for something. For him, the driver.

The writer struggled to comprehend. He hesitated to move further back, for fear of making a noise.

The night was shattered by a roar that shook the ground. A long, profound, agonizing cry.

Then silence. Total silence. The forest had lost its voice. 

The writer huddled under the tall pine all night. At the first hint of dawn, he peered at his car. Upside down in the campsite. Windows shattered. The driver door twisted back..

Just as the sun peeked through the trees, the writer heard a hum. An engine. He saw a Park Ranger vehicle drive up and stop near his own car. A ranger got out and approached the Toyota.

“Yo,” the writer called out. “Over here.”

The ranger turned toward the driver as he stepped out from behind the tree.

“This your car?”

The writer nodded.

“You’re lucky. Looks like you got out okay.”

“What the hell happened?”