Tagged: Tales From The Grouch



by J.D.H.



The servants of Mumsford House, composed of the cook, the maid, and the butler, were respectively atwitter, aflutter, and aghast.

News had arrived that morning that the master of the house, Lord Arvid Mumsford, was on his way home. He was expected to arrive at Mumsford House that very evening.

“Mercy me,” declared Lily Evans (atwitter), the portly cook, speaking to herself in the kitchen. “I’ll have to prepare something special. This is a fine occasion, and the master deserves no less.”




“Harrumph!” barked the butler (aghast), Seymour Evans (no relation to Lily), to the timid maid, a girl named Marcie Pootz. “The man is certifiably insane.” He glared at the girl, daring her to object. She simply stared at the floor.

“Nevertheless, he is the source of our income, and we are duty-bound to adhere to our contract. As such, you must see to the condition of the entire house, and in particular the parlor. Oh, yes, especially the parlor.”

Marcie Pootz (aflutter) was intimidated by Mr. Evans, whom she considered the true master of Mumsford House. This, because in her short tenure as the newest employee, she had yet to meet the mysterious Lord Mumsford. He was always abroad and visited rarely.

As for the lady of the house, well, although she resided just upstairs in the main bedroom, that is where she remained all day, every day, being an invalid. Marcie was responsible for the upkeep and cleaning of every room in the house – save Lady Mumsford’s room, which she had yet to behold. Mr. Evans himself saw to the maintenance of that room.

Marcie had never set eyes on poor Lady Mumsford. As far as the girl was concerned, the inhabitants of Mumsford House numbered just three: herself, Mr. Evans, and Mrs. Evans.

“Yes, sir,” said Marcie to Mr. Evans, avoiding all eye contact with the imperious man. “But if I may ask, sir, when is the master expected?”

“This evening. Now off with you. There is much to be done. Lay emphasis on the parlor.”




Meanwhile, a hundred miles away in London …


Stanley Swinepool, heir to a fortune and man about town, studied the silver-haired man seated among a cluster of elderly gents in the center of the Devon Club’s lounge. Stanley turned to his constant companion, Sven “Sniveling” Snodgress, and pronounced judgment:

“So that’s the world-famous Lord Mumsford, is it? Back from his tour of the globe, is he?”

Sniveling Snodgress said nothing in reply.

“Doesn’t exactly cut an imposing figure, does he?” Stanley took a drag off his cigarette and left it dangling from a sneering lip. “I don’t see why he bothers to come back, after all. His reputation far outweighs his countenance in the flesh. If I were him, I’d stay in hiding rather than come out and disappoint everyone.”

“He comes back every year about this time. Wants to see his wife,” said Sniveling Snodgress.

Stanley considered this, never allowing his gaze to leave the huddle of men in the center of the lounge. “I read something about that. Some sort of tragedy, wasn’t it? Or was it a scandal of some sort?”

Sniveling Snodgress said nothing.




Lord Mumsford took in the ongoing conversation among his distinguished companions in the Devon Club lounge. Nothing but idle gossip, really. One of the club’s long-time members had recently dissolved his long-time marriage because, apparently, he’d grown repulsed by his wife’s appearance.

“Too fat for his taste,” said one man.

“Hogwash. Her teeth had fallen out,” chipped in another.

“Regardless, the husband said she was more suited to the stable than the bedroom,” quipped a third.

Amid the subsequent burst of laughter, Lord Mumsford cleared his throat. The chortling ceased.

“He sounds like a very foolish husband,” said Mumsford. “Let me explain. Margaret and I have been husband and wife for many, many years now. Physically, you might say the bloom is off the rose. Oh, yes. Certainly that.

“But there are more important things in a marriage. Things like common interests, similar values and, above all, shared memories.”

“All well and good,” snorted a gentleman. “But memories will only take you so far in the bedchamber.”

More laughter.

“As for that,” continued the lord. “A little imagination will work wonders. If a woman’s face no longer arouses a man’s passion, there are other means to attain the desired effect. For example, she can always lend you a hand. If you get my meaning.”




The preparations at Mumsford House had reached peak frenzy. The master had arrived for his annual visit and was expected at the house at any moment.

Marcie Pootz was startled by the change in Mr. Evans and Mrs. Evans (no relation) as the arrival of Lord Mumsford grew imminent. Marcie discovered Mrs. Evans frantically polishing house silver and simultaneously keeping an eye on the special meal cooking on the stove.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Evans. I can’t seem to find Mr. Evans and I knows he wanted me to do one more thing but it’s slipped my mind and –”

“Mr. Evans is upstairs, giving the lady of the house a manicure. After that, he’ll need to carry her down to the parlor. Have you cleaned the parlor as we instructed?”

“Oh, yes ma’am. Everything is clean and everything is tidy, just as you said. I don’t –”

“And especially the table by the master’s chair?”

“Yes ma’am. Especially that. I hope I’m not out of place, but Mrs. Evans I have to say I’m quite excited by this visit. I’ve been here some time now, and yet I’ve only seen the lord the one time, as he was leaving the house. And I have yet to see Lady Margaret.”

Mrs. Evans paused in her work, considering something. “You know, Marcie, the master and his wife, in my opinion, are one of the greatest love stories of all time. I daresay you might not think so; you might find their relationship a bit odd. But then you are a young lass, and you haven’t suffered as they have.

“It was a horrible accident, it was,” continued the cook, wiping away a tear. “I think of it every time I set foot on a train.”

Mrs. Evans composed herself and shot a stern look at the girl. “So it’s best you keep your mouth closed and learn from them. No matter what you might think.”

“Oh, Mrs. Evans, I do so adore a good love story!”




Marcie could not help herself. She knew what she was doing was wrong, but the temptation was simply too great.

The door to the parlor was not completely closed; Marcie had nudged it ajar, and now stood quietly in the hall, straining to hear the words of Lord and Lady Mumsford.

But it was a frustrating exercise for Marcie. Aside from soft murmurings and the occasional coo from Lord Mumsford — “my darling” … “love of my life” — she could make out very little.

She glanced back at the main entrance. Earlier, Lord Mumsford had greeting Mr. Evans and Mrs. Evans and had nodded curtly at Marcie, but that was it. He had handed his coat and hat to the butler and gone straight into the parlor.

She looked at the staircase. Mr. and Mrs. Evans were far away, occupied in the kitchen. The lady’s bedroom would be vacant. This might be Marcie’s only opportunity ….




Meanwhile, a hundred miles away in London ….


Snodgress and Swinepool sat in a seedy bar, having tired of the stifling atmosphere of the Devon Club. Smoke and working-class shouts filled The Black Dog, and a bored waitress stood patiently between the two men-about-town.

Swinepool sized up the waitress: a tallish, red-haired girl wearing spectacles. Not unattractive, he judged, but rather dead in the eyes. He reached behind her and raised her skirt to the waist, then squeezed a buttock.

“What’s the name, darlin’?”

“Kit, sir.” She remained expressionless.

Snodgress leaned over and squeezed her other buttock. “Kit what?”

“Mancini,” said the girl. “Would you gentlemen like another?”

“Certainly,” said Swinepool, as Kit leaned forward to wipe detritus from their table. “But before you go,” he tugged at the girl’s blouse, baring her breast, “let’s have a look at your top.”




As the girl sauntered off with their order, Swinepool turned to his companion. “Now, about Mumsford.”

Snodgress frowned.

“Nasty business, that was,” he said. “I remember it well. Mumsford and his wife had just returned from a trip somewhere or the other. At the train station here in London. The lady got off the train, but she oughtn’t. Bad timing.”

“Hmmm,” said Swinepool, who was distracted by Kit Mancini’s swaying backside as it crossed the dingy room.

“One of those parallel tracks, where one set is just a spit away from the other. Of course, just then a second train came along. Mumsford reached out for the wife’s hand, caught it, held fast … but too late. But he never let go.”

Sniveling Snodgress shook his head. “They say the old fellow never recovered.”




Marcie stood in Lady Mumsford’s bedroom and surveyed her surroundings. It was a lavish room, large and well-kept by Mr. Evans. Her gaze kept returning to the bed. It was so small, like a child’s resting place. Beside the bed, Mr. Evans had carelessly left tissue and nail polish, the remnants of his earlier manicure of the lady.




In the parlor, Lord Mumsford was kissing his wife’s hand. As he did so, he caressed a wedding ring attached to a finger of her left hand.

He raised his head, squeezing Margaret’s hand as he did so. Something putrid and vile dripped down the lord’s chin.

“Damn that man, Evans,” he muttered. He used his handkerchief to wipe the preservative from his lips.

“No one cares for you, Margaret, as I do. You know that. My love for you is undying.”

Mumsford took one last, loving look at what remained of his wife, then carefully lifted the pale-green, stiff appendage — cleanly severed beneath the shoulder — and placed it gently back into the large jar of formaldehyde on the table.

Margaret’s arm floated in its liquid preservative for a moment, then began to sink to the bottom of the jar.

“Evans!” Lord Mumsford cried. “I am done in here!”

Evans was aghast. Mrs. Evans, in tears, was atwitter. Marcie, as always, was aflutter.





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by J.D.H.


The old man looked around for a spittoon, realized there wasn’t one, and spat a wad of something brown and chunky into the corner of the room. He shot a glance at the boy seated on a stool near the cabin door.

“Like that one, Johnny?”  The old-timer began to cackle but stopped when he recalled the duration and unpleasantness of his last coughing spell. Laughter, like everything else when you grew old, had become a health hazard for him.

The boy sat very still and quiet on the two-legged stool, which was no longer three-legged and was only useable if one leaned back against the cabin wall — Johnny’s current, precarious position. The old man winked at Johnny and began rubbing the crotch of his grimy overalls. Johnny kept his gaze on the rheumy, dewy eyes of the geezer.

“Want to see my manhood now, eh Johnny?” The old-timer got no reply to this; the boy apparently had no sense of fun. The old man waited patiently. No response.




“Tell me more,” Johnny said at last. “You can’t stop talking now.”

The smile vanished from the old man’s face when he realized that the boy meant business. He looked away from the kid, toward the mottled, disgusting wad of phlegm and tobacco he’d spat into the corner. Two ants were rapidly making their way across the floor toward the messy glob, sensing a meal.

“OK. OK, then, watch and learn something,” said the old man. He closed his bloodshot eyes, raised his face toward the ceiling of the old hut, furrowed his brow, and recited a quote from the Bible: “While I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came flying down to where I was. It was the time for the evening sacrifice to be offered.”

The man stopped and checked on Johnny, making sure his audience was paying heed. Satisfied, he looked again at the ants, now climbing atop the splash of spent tobacco.

“He said to them, ‘It is written: My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you make it a den of robbers!’”

The old man raised a boot and brought it down hard, squashing the ants as they fed. He bent low to the floor, retrieved what was left of one ant, and studied a spindly leg protruding between his fingers. The leg appeared to twitch once, and then ceased all movement.

“That was you, Johnny Blackwell. You and me. Tell me now, just before I sent them ants to kingdom come, were you concerned about their eternal souls? Answer me that!”

No reply. But Johnny was rapt.

“Them ants don’t belong here, no ways. Know what they be, Johnny? Robbers! Robbers and squatters!

“Squashed squatters!” He laughed uproariously at his own joke.




Johnny had watched as the old man squished life out of the ants, but now he returned the geezer’s stare. “You speak wisdom, old-timer,” he said.

“Damn right I do. Give me them preachers and them philosophers and them’s on TV and whatnot. So concerned about our souls! Who’s to say them ants don’t have no souls? Not you! Nor me!” The old man’s face expressed rage and revelation. He trembled. He smiled again. “Now, I ask you agin: Want to see my manhood?”

Johnny slowly shook his head. Sooner or later, their conversations generally came around to this.

He rose from his seat in the corner, careful not to topple the rickety stool. “As per usual, you speak wisdom, old man. But your horniness will get you in trouble one day.” Johnny shuffled toward the cabin door, felt his face flush a bit, and turned back. “Well, I reckon just a quick one then.”

The old man’s eyes lit up. He frantically tugged at the fly of his overalls ….




Johnny opened the door of the ramshackle abode and began walking away. Without turning back, he said, “We’ll do this again, old man. I allow that I still have much to learn.” And then he was gone.




The old man watched Johnny walk down the path. He turned to his gun cabinet, opened its door, and removed a shotgun. He knew it was loaded, and it took him no time at all to level the barrel at Johnny’s receding backside. Another Bible verse came to mind, and he spoke it to himself: “And as a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.” He lowered the shotgun, cackled again, and re-entered the hut.




He examined the splotch of chaw on the floor, then studied what was left of the ants. He looked up at the ceiling and watched it implode.

Boards, dust, and dirt flew scattershot. A sudden blaze of sunlight nearly blinded him.

A chariot with teeth was descending toward him, like the vision of Gabriel: He came flying down to where I was. His mouth gaped wide.

The chariot with teeth lowered itself and took hold of him, clenching its jaws shut as it did so. The old-timer was hoisted up, up, and out through the roof, toward the blinding sun and, the old man had time to hope, toward his reward in the heavens.




Johnny, still walking down the dirt path, heard a crash from behind and turned in time to see an amazing sight: the old man, aloft high above the cabin and in the grip of a metal box. One spindly leg protruded from the claws of the giant crane. It appeared the old man was being crushed.




City employee Jim Hagerstrom was in heaven. He sat in the cab of a brand-new MB excavator and watched in awe as its attached crusher emerged from a cloud of dust and climbed high above the cabin roof.

The MB was amazing, an incredible (and expensive) piece of engineering that made small-scale demolition — like that of this abandoned eyesore of a cabin — easier than ever. Jim Hagerstrom was proud of the expensive machine, and he was pleased that his supervisor had trusted him with such dear hardware. The excavator and its crusher together came to near $80,000.

As the dust began to clear, Jim thought he saw movement in the jaws of the metallic crusher. Almost looked like a man’s leg. Probably just a piece of furniture.

Surely that old squatter who they’d chased away in the spring was long gone … surely?





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Carol Comes Home

by J.D.H.


Carol burst into the apartment and slammed the door shut, locked it, bolted it, and then, back against the door, slid down to the floor.

The apartment was dark, but the red light on the phone’s answering machine was blinking. Messages.

Carol was breathing heavily, eyes closed, when the memories came flooding back.

This can’t keep happening … these men are horrible!




Eyes now open, Carol rose from the floor and shuffled to the phone machine. Three messages.

Message 1:  “Carol, it’s mother. I’m worried about you. Please pick up if you’re there … otherwise, call me when you get this.”





There was a muffled sound just outside the apartment door, and Carol wondered if someone from the bar had followed and was out there. Surely not ….

Unwelcome memories from the nightclub kept coming back:

Minding my own business, having a drink, checking my cell phone, and the creep sits down beside me. When I don’t acknowledge him, the creep looks at my phone and says, “Can I send you a dick pic?” I say, “Why would I want that? I can tell just from looking at you that you’re hung like an acorn.”

All he did was smile.




Message 2:  “Hi Carol. This is Xavier from the club. You don’t have to return this. I was just wondering how things went the other night. You know, with my bro Alex? Seemed like you two hit it off (laughter). Anyway, I’m sure I’ll see you soon at the club. Bye.”





Alex from the club. Right.

These damned men! They have no idea the time and effort I — and millions of girls around the planet — put into our appearance, and they have no clue as to why. Yes, we want to look attractive — but that doesn’t mean we want to sleep with you! We enjoy the attention, it feels good to be noticed and desired, sure, but that doesn’t mean we want to bonk!




“Funny thing about dick pics,” the creep at the bar had said. “Women complain about them, but they don’t understand the motive. They think men are like peacocks, strutting their feathers — or dicks — in a bid to attract a woman. But that’s not the case. Usually, the man knows he has no chance with her. The dick pic isn’t for her benefit; it’s actually an act of aggression.”




Message 3:  A hang-up.




“The guy thinks, OK, she’s not into me. But at the very least, I can get her to see my dick, plant that image in her brain. At some point, she’ll probably imagine sex with that dick — if only for a moment. And so the dick pic is for the guy’s benefit, sort of a mind fuck. Pathetic, sure, but not what most women think it is.”

At that point, Carol stood and faced him. “You speak like you have a lot of experience sending dick pics. No thanks. Like I said, I can tell just from looking at you that you’re probably sporting a baby dick.” Carol left him sitting there, a smirk on his face.




No more phone messages. Somewhere outside, a siren was wailing. It grew louder, then fainter as it moved on.

Of course, everyone has some sort of … kink. I certainly have one. But some of the fetishes these men entertain …. There is a difference between tolerating a man’s kinks, and actually indulging them.




“I know your secret, Carol.” This new guy, unlike the creep, was somewhat good-looking. He wasn’t vulgar and had a certain charm. But after he’d sat there, at the bar, for ten minutes or so, his hand was suddenly on Carol’s upper thigh. “I don’t mind your secret,” he said.

As with the first creep, this was a cue for Carol to leave. He’d blown it.




But he had followed Carol out of the bar and into an alley. They stood next to a reeking dumpster.

“What happened then was self-defense,” Carol said aloud. “He cornered me, and I had no alternative but to …”




Carol looked down at the blood-stained stiletto heel. It had gone into the man’s eye socket, pushed in hard until it struck bone. Now his body was in the dumpster, where someone would eventually find it. But it was self-defense.

These men!

It was a repeat of the scene with Alex a few nights ago. Lovely Alex, who did not understand that Carol had no intention of sleeping with him. Carol simply craved attention. But Carol didn’t swing that way.

Alex’s body was now in a dirt heap beneath a highway bridge. They would find him, eventually.




Carol went into the bathroom and removed his wig and began to disrobe. There was blood on his dress, and on his blouse. He stood and relieved himself in the toilet, flushed, and then, like always, he left the toilet seat up.





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by J.D.H.


Dr. Loris Limm, eminent surgeon and pillar of the community, stepped into the foyer of his house. It felt good to be home. It was drizzling outside, and the good doctor tossed his wet coat onto the back of a chair in the hallway, thoughtfully removed his shoes, and placed his laptop computer on a small, antique table. To his right, the door to the library was slightly ajar. Light from the room was filtering out into the foyer.

Dr. Limm began to open the library door, but then hesitated. A frown creased his handsome, middle-aged face.

From within the room, he could hear the smack-flutter of damp flesh on paper, and this distressed him. It reminded him of his wife, Eleanor, who had the annoying habit of licking her index finger before turning every page of whatever book she happened to be reading. A harmless enough thing, certainly, but to Dr. Limm that “wet” sound was infinitely more grating than the proverbial fingernails on a chalkboard.

And now it would seem that one of the twins — perhaps both — had picked up Eleanor’s irritating tic. But then he chastised himself, recalling that his children would never be guilty of such obnoxious behavior.




Dr. Limm pushed the door open and, sure enough, his children — the boy Neil and the girl Lisle (affectionately nicknamed “Pincushion” by the family) — both had their noses in books. Of Neil, Dr. Limm could see but the top of the boy’s curly brown hair, just visible above the backside of a roan-colored sofa. Neil’s book was propped against a throw pillow. Lisle he could see in her entirety as the girl lay sprawled on a shaggy rug near the fireplace. Her book was splayed upon the rug.

“Father!” Lisle cried. No such greeting came from his son, but Dr. Limm could hear a faint rustle of shifting plastic in the vicinity of the boy.

“Children,” Dr. Limm graced them with a barely perceptible smile. He did, however, lean over the sofa to ruffle his son’s unruly crown of hair. “Studies, or pleasure?”

“Studies, father,” replied the boy. “Father, what will we eat tonight?”

Dr. Limm ignored this and turned to his golden-haired daughter. “And Lisle, studies or pleasure?”

“Pleasure, father. Mother says I am ahead of Neil in my studies, and so I am waiting for him to catch up.”

“And what are you reading for pleasure?”

A Farewell to—“

“Father,” her brother cut in: “Might we have hamburger and potato salad for dinner? It’s Thursday, and—“

“Let me check with your mother,” said Dr. Limm. “Now get back to your books. I don’t want to interrupt Neil’s education, and Hemingway waits for no man.”

“Nor girl!” squealed Lisle.

Dr. Limm graced them with a second weak smile, and pulled the door shut as he moved back into the hallway.




A light at the end of the passage informed him that his wife of 33 years was in the kitchen. The light was blue-tinged, which indicated, not surprisingly to the doctor, the glow of a television. No studies or Hemingway for Eleanor. As Dr. Limm entered the smallish kitchen, he beheld the usual scene: Eleanor on her loveseat, feet planted on an ottoman, hand deep in a box of some-kind-of-snack, and the television tuned to some “reality TV” absurdity.

On the screen, a half-dozen Southern teens were filling the bed of a pickup truck with water from a garden hose. They had lined the truck’s bed with a large plastic sheet, and were attempting to create a Kentucky poor kids’ version of a backyard swimming pool.

“Neil is asking about a special meal again,” the doctor said, after glancing at his wife to ascertain whether she was awake or asleep. “I told him I would check with his mother.”

One of the redneck girls on TV, the doctor noted, had managed to lose her bikini top. MTV had tactfully pixilated this moral offense. Eleanor either heard nothing her husband had said, or determined that no reply was required. Her nose twitched, as though something foul-smelling had suddenly entered the room, but her eyes stayed glued to the TV.

Dr. Limm followed her gaze to the flat-screen television. Every other word out of the teenagers’ mouths was being “bleeped” by the network’s censors. Dr. Limm sighed.




“The children on this show are animals,” Eleanor whispered, more to herself than to her husband. “It’s obvious we made the right decision.”

Dr. Limm took a seat in a rocker and sat in silence for some minutes, observing with his wife the hedonistic behavior of the MTV kids. “They are having a wonderful time of it,” he said at last. “Give them five years, and they’ll have a wonderful time of it behind the walls of some penitentiary, or in the waiting room of some seedy abortion clinic.”

“We made,” repeated Eleanor, “the right decision. Oh, yes.”

Dr. Limm nodded his head in assent. “Discipline may be short-term pain, but it’s … it is long-term gain, I assure you.”

“You don’t have to tell me, Loris.”

“I’m sure I don’t. Those children on your television program, assuming they have parents, will wind up costing them a bundle. Parents must do what they must to maintain discipline. And to keep children safe from the wicked influences of the outer world. At least, whenever possible.

“And if that means their children must suffer some inconvenience, well.” The doctor paused to consider. “I’m not suggesting that I don’t enjoy a … respectable income, but even Neil and Lisle, at times, cost me an arm and a leg.”

Eleanor burst out of her loveseat as though the fumes she detected earlier had blossomed into a full-blown nuclear explosion. In two steps she was standing above her husband, delivering one vicious slap to his left cheek, and a follow-up blow to his right.

Dr. Loris Limm’s eyes widened in shock, but he regained his composure almost immediately. He looked down at his lap in shame. “I’m so sorry, Eleanor. I … I didn’t think. That was careless of me.”




The rustle of plastic against wood caused them both to look back at the kitchen entrance.

“Father,” said Neil from the doorway. “There was a joke in a book and it’s upset Lisle terribly. The joke was: Three boys come to the door of Little Johnny’s house. Johnny’s mother answers the door and one boy says, ‘Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Smith, can Little Johnny come out to play baseball?’ And the mother tells them, ‘Now boys, you know that Little Johnny has no arms nor legs.’ And the boy says, ‘That’s OK, Mrs. Smith, we just need him to be second base.’’’  

Neil paused and looked from one parent to the other. “Lisle is awfully upset.”

Dr. Limm looked down at the stump of his 32-year-old son, whose arms were amputated below the elbows and whose legs were missing below the knees. The doctor frowned when he noticed the plastic bag the boy had dragged down the hall with him. Behind the boy, Lisle, also 32 years old and similarly dislimbed, shed tears from the spot on the hallway carpet to which she had slithered.

“Neil,” Dr. Limm admonished, “Your colostomy bag is leaking. Please clean up after yourself at once.”

“Neil,” added Mrs. Limm, “Guess what? Hamburger and potato salad — tonight!”




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by J.D.H.


Harry and Louise both had the same thought at the same time: refills. They rose from their respective lawn chairs and began the short stroll toward the back door of the kitchen and, inside, the lemonade pitcher. Refreshing.

As they walked, Harry and Louise had just time enough to notice the brilliant white flash on the horizon, followed by a billowing mushroom cloud.




Then the world blew up.





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by J.D.H.


Mr. Brickbottom adjusted his Van Cleef & Arpels’ cufflinks. He straightened his Tom Ford tie, and glanced at the corner of his office, at the shiny new X.222 PowerPak. He pushed a button on the ebony console on his desk, and silently began counting to five …

On the count of four, the office door opened and his secretary, the ever-efficient, ever-timely Eliza Toot, ran a hand through her red hair and smiled at him. Brickbottom ran his own hand through his own hair — recently groomed at a cost of some five hundred dollars.

“Good morning, Ms. Toot. I was wondering what time they scheduled my three o’clock.”

Ms. Toot replied: “Three o’clock, Mr. Brickbottom.”

Brickbottom glared at Toot. Was this her idea of some kind of joke? But then he realized his error. “Of course, of course. I meant to say, where have they scheduled my three o’clock? I don’t want to miss it.”




From the hallway outside of Brickbottom’s office, there came a faint sound: “thwup.”




Ms. Toot consulted her daily planner. “The conference room on the 38th floor, Mr. Brickbottom. Would you like me to be there?”

Brickbottom opened his mouth to reply, but before he could say anything, Ms. Toot was thrust violently over his desk and fell clumsily onto his lap. Without a word, Ms. Toot removed herself from Brickbottom and scurried back to the other side of his desk.

“Quite all right, Toot,” Brickbottom said, readjusting his tie and brushing back his hair.  “I take it you forgot to remove your Pak.”

“I’m so sorry, Mr. Brickbottom. Yes, I just got in ten minutes ago, and then Mr. Barnstebble approached me with some issue or other … I quite forgot about the Pak.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Brickbottom watched as an intern in the hallway, some cute young college student named Julie, flew past his office in a blur. “Thwup.”

He turned to survey the scene outside his 36th-floor office window. A score of businessmen and businesswomen were soaring through the air, no doubt late for work, judging from their harried expressions. A few of them whizzed by just feet from his window.

As he was observing this scene, one of fliers, a man in a grey suit and fedora, halted in mid-air.  The man appeared to convulse … lurched forward a few yards … convulsed again … and plunged 36 floors to his death.




Brickbottom turned back to Ms. Toot. Eyes wide, Ms. Toot had also witnessed the falling man.

“Better move the three o’clock to one o’clock, Ms. Toot. This can’t be good.”

Ms. Toot was all business again. “Yes, sir.” She turned to leave the office.

“Oh, and Ms. Toot? I guess I needn’t remind you what you should have for lunch. Or rather,” at this, he nodded toward the window, “how much you should have for lunch.”

Toot nodded and began to leave the office, but was again propelled forward by some unseen force. She smashed headlong into the office door. “Thwup.”




Mr. Brickbottom was alone now in his office. The meeting was to take place in less than an hour, but it seemed pointless to him. He looked again at his X.22 PowerPak, and then out the window. More of them were falling now. It was lunchtime, but instead of making their way to restaurants, people were plunging face-first onto the sidewalks and streets far below.

It was a full-scale catastrophe, and Brickbottom, architect of this disaster, contemplated his options.

He studied the bookcase across from his desk. The top row was lined with cans of Flatula, his company’s main product. Combined with the X.22, Flatula produced a form of energy that had replaced cars and planes and buses and gasoline. It had been hailed as a “miracle product.” People would consume Flatula, attach their PowerPaks, and propel themselves anyplace and anytime that they liked. It was the ultimate “green” energy.

But something was obviously going horribly wrong. People like Ms. Toot and Julie the intern could no longer control their propulsions. Others, like the poor businesspeople outside his window, were falling to their deaths. And it was all Brickbottom’s fault.

Brickbottom slowly rose from his chair and put on his PowerPak. He made his way to the window, opened it, and stepped out onto the ledge.

What could be the problem? Was it the formula, Flatula, or was it his pride and joy, the X.22 PowerPak? If either was flawed, he was effectively finished. He and the company he had created.

Brickbottom reflected that his formula and device had been tested and tested and tested … no, the problem must be human error. People were not operating them correctly. He stepped off the ledge and farted. “Thwup.” He activated his PowerPak.




Ms. Toot knocked gently on Brickbottom’s office door — eight times. No answer. She wanted to make sure he would be at the meeting, especially since everyone was calling and demanding that he be there. Including members of the board of directors. She pushed open the door and peeked around it.

Mr. Brickbottom was not at his desk. His window, however, was open.

Ms. Toot frowned and walked quickly to the window. She looked out, then down. She saw a spinning, cartwheeling figure plummeting toward the pavement. The figure’s shiny cufflinks twinkled in the sunlight.

The spinning figure seemed to be making rapid-fire sounds as it fell: “thwup-thwupthwupthwupthwup” —






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The Porthole

by J.D.H.


Sarah Seemore was drunk … and stuck.

“Oh, my,” Sarah said. Fog-headed, she tried to recall how she’d gotten into this predicament. In front of her, she could see the outline of the ship’s railing as it swayed up and down, up and down. This disorienting motion — along with the alcohol in her system and the pre-dawn darkness at sea — did nothing to clear her head.

“My goodness,” Sarah said. From what she could tell, there was no one on the outside deck.

When she felt well enough to move, Sarah found that she could not; something was binding her at the waist.

She began to cry “Help!” — but then memory began to come back. It was a porthole, of course. She had foolishly joined the men at their party, and had drunkenly said that, of course, she was small enough to slip through that porthole … if someone would just hold her drink for her …. And so here she was: stuck.




Inside the ship’s lounge, Moogbar stirred on the floor. He thought he might vomit, decided he would not. At least not yet. Through bloodshot eyes, he surveyed his surroundings and counted three other men on the floor. Passed out. Some party, Moogbar thought.

He heard a soft moaning, and sat up on the floor. The moaning turned into a voice: “Someone?” A high-pitched, girlish plaint.

Moogbar turned to his left and there it was. Jutting out from the bulkhead of the ship’s lounge, like a peach-colored corsage on a lapel, was the most enticing thing he’d ever seen — a perfectly shaped derriere. In a blue-denim skirt. A blue-denim miniskirt.

“Oh, my,” said Moogbar, to no one in particular.

Moogbar blinked and rubbed his eyes. He looked again at the fleshy protuberance in the bulkhead. To its left was a bank’s ATM. A metal plate affixed to the machine announced: DEPOSITS, WITHDRAWALS. Moogbar felt much better.




Sarah had nearly passed out again when she felt something touching the part of her person that was still in the lounge, not out on the deck. “Hello?” she said. No answer. But someone was fumbling with her skirt. “Oh!




Moogbar wracked his brain, trying to recall the name of the movie. The Toxic Avenger, yeah, that was it. He had raised the girl’s skirt, yanked down her lacy panties. “My goodness,” Moogbar said, overjoyed with his good fortune.

Oh!” said Sarah.




Someone else stirred on the floor of the lounge. It was an older gentleman, stooped and bald-pated. “Whuh?” he said. He saw movement near the ATM machine. The old gent blinked and tried to focus his eyes. Where the hell were his glasses?

A rhythmic motion at the wall; the idiot Moogbar seemed to be humping it. His sweaty ass was pumping frantically. There were red blotches on his rear. Pimples. The old gentleman looked away.




Oh, please stop!” cried Sarah.

“Ooomph!” said Moogbar. “Ooomph Ooomph OOOMPH!” said Moogbar, and he collapsed to the floor.

The old man stared at Moogbar. Moogbar looked back at him and grinned. He had finally remembered the line from Toxic Avenger: “Always did want to corn hole me a white bitch,” he quoted. He smiled at the older gentleman and gestured to the bare buttocks protruding from the porthole. “Now’s your big chance, old timer.”

The older man gaped at the sight. He could not recall the last time he’d had sex. He would think of sex, look at his wife, and immediately lose interest. But now, as he ogled the shapely young peach just a few feet away, it seemed to beckon to him.

Why not? Who would ever know?




Ahhhh!” said the old man.

Oooooh!” said Sarah.

Yaaahhh!” cried the old man. His old-man pants drooped to his old-man ankles. Keenly aware of Moogbar’s judgmental gaze, the old man thrust his bony pelvis as he hadn’t thrust it in years, deep into this gift from the gods.

Ooooooh!” said Sarah.

“Boom-chucka, boom-chucka, boom-fucka Ohhhh!” cried the old man. Spent, the dirty deed done, he collapsed to the floor.

Moogbar laughed. “Enjoy that, old man? Not bad for such an old rooster. What say we go outside, see what she looks like from the other end?”




On the deck, outside in the dark, there she was, her long auburn hair partly obscuring her face. At the sound of footsteps, she looked up at them.

“Daddy!” she cried.

The old man gaped at his daughter, and his dentures fell out of his mouth and dropped to the deck.






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© 2010-2023 grouchyeditor.com (text only)




by J.D.H.


Abdul, a wiry boy of 13, aimed his toe at the pink chunk of quartz on the ground and let fly with his right foot. The pebble took flight, clearing the gravel road, the adjacent ditch, and a line of scraggly bushes before landing somewhere out of sight beyond a small hill. Abdul glanced to his right at Chumley, also 13, for some sign of approval, but Chumley was still droning on …

“You’re a lucky one, Abdul, because you have a real father. You don’t have a stepfather who gets drunk all the time and hits you,” Chumley said, his eyes never leaving the gravel road.

Abdul, tiring of this never-ending complaining by his chunky friend, glanced over his shoulder at the two boys who were trailing them: Mugwump and Theodore. Lost in their own conversation, those two had also missed his NFL-caliber rock punt.

“You get to go home and everything’s normal for you,” Chumley went on. “You just watch TV and read your brother’s Playboys … and you don’t have to always worry that you might say the wrong thing. Or say anything.”

There was a brief cry from behind, and Abdul turned to see Mugwump and Theodore engaged in a tussle. This would not end well for Theodore, Abdul thought; Mugwump had a good 20 pounds and two inches on the smaller boy.




Abdul thought he heard a faint whirring sound, possibly from the other side of the small hill. He looked back at Chumley and decided to change the subject, get his fat friend’s mind off this depressing stepfather subject.

“Want to come over and look at Playboys? Klumil got the new one.”

“Oh, yeah?” Chumley’s eyes lit up: The diversionary tactic seemed to be working. “Maybe I can later, after we eat. What time is it, anyway?”

Abdul was about to answer when he heard the whirring sound again. Now it was coming from above them. He looked up and saw the UFO, a bus-sized mass of shiny metal, glowing orange and shaped like a gigantic Frisbee. It was hovering no more than 15 feet above their heads. As he watched, mouth agape and eyes wide, a pendulum-thing lowered from the belly of the ship and drew even with Chumley’s head.





Chumley’s head, severed neatly at the neck by the pendulum-thing, sailed silently through the air, off in the direction of the quartz pebble. Abdul watched it land with a soft thud on the hillside, then roll gently down to the bottom of the hill, where it came to rest near a rosebush.





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by J.D.H.


Editor’s Note:  This is the debut of “Tales From The Grouch,” a series of short stories written by J.D.H.  The tales will appear periodically in this space.




Rusty tossed and turned in the bed, unable to sleep. She rolled over onto her back and stared at the ceiling, at the thousands of little whirls and bumps in the off-white-colored plaster. Her insomnia was maddening. It was late, and so not a good time to do much of anything except lay here and toss and turn. Toss and turn.

She craned her neck and examined Bill, who lay beside her, exhaling softly in his sleep. Rusty could not recall the last time she’d heard Bill snore. But it was comforting to have him here, asleep beside her in the bed. He smelled good. Life was good between Rusty and Bill, but there were things she missed about their former life ….

Like when they lived in the city, and would go for late-night walks along the boulevard, just the two of them. Sometimes it would rain, an event that made both of them unhappy, but it was exhilarating to run with Bill back to the apartment. It was warm and snug in the apartment, and Bill would cook something good for them to eat. Happy times.

Suburban life was another thing altogether. Bill would leave for work in the mornings, and Rusty would be on her own for the day. There were the neighbors with whom she could socialize, of course, but they had youngsters, and Rusty, with no young ones of her own, felt like an outsider. She would be out in the back yard, near the clothesline, and hear the neighbors on the other side of the fence. They would exchange greetings, and then Rusty would go back to her isolated existence, there in suburbia, while Bill was at the office earning their keep.

Rusty tossed and turned in the bed. Tossed and turned. No sleep, but it was good to once again be sharing a bed with Bill. Recently, there had been trouble, but that was to be expected in any long-term relationship. There was a misunderstanding, something Rusty did not yet understand, but the result was that Rusty had spent several evenings in the guestroom across the hall, and Bill had stayed in the master bedroom.

And now she lay beside him, listening to the wheezing and thinking of all of the good times. The walks in the park, the smell of bacon in the kitchen as Bill made breakfast ….




“Rusty, is that you?”

Bill was awake but sluggish. Apparently he’d forgotten that their on-again, off-again sleeping arrangements were “on again.”  It was dark in the bedroom, so Bill reached over and stroked Rusty’s thigh. He ran his hand through her hair. It felt good to her, and it made her feel secure.




In the morning, Rusty saw streams of sunlight filtering in through the Venetian blinds, and wondered how long she should lay there. Bill was a notorious late sleeper, not an early riser like she was, and so she left the bed, paused at the bathroom door, but then decided to go downstairs and to the kitchen. She was hungry, and possibly some of yesterday’s leftovers would appeal.

Downstairs, in the kitchen, she noticed that the back door was slightly ajar. She went to the door, peeked through the crack, nudged the door open, and walked out.

There was something in the far corner of the yard, something on the ground that had not been there the day before, she was certain of it. She knew every inch of the yard, spending as much time there as she had, and this was a foreign object. It was small and dark … and new. Part of it seemed to rustle in the wind. Rusty went to investigate.




Bill rubbed sleep from his eyes as he entered the kitchen. Bacon and eggs would be good; coffee would be better. He saw that the back door was open, and he noticed that Rusty was nowhere in sight. Bill went to investigate.




Rusty sat on the grass in the far corner of the yard, feeling sick to her stomach. She felt something rising in her intestines, and tried to keep it down. She’d had this sickening sensation before, many times, but it was never a pleasant thing. She leaned forward and up it came. She vomited onto the grass what was left of the bird she had just eaten.

From the kitchen door came Bill’s voice:

“Rusty! Bad girl! What have you eaten now?”

Rusty rolled onto her back, paws in the air, and gasped for breath. This was turning out to be a very bad week. On Saturday she had endured shots at the vet’s office. Now this.





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