Tagged: Tales From The Grouch



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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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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