Friday, October 31, 2014

Christmas In October

  The Sun was up and blasting its FM Raydio. The Van Man opened his eyes and realized he had slept in. He could forgive himself for it. It was Saturday and he had a full day ahead. His first stop was the Monrovia Pick-a-Part. The tire mount haunted him and he needed it. He needed the victory. Van Man would find the right one this time. He would be prepared.
  He cruised in his van under the scandalous Sun. Down the two-ten into the San Gabriel Valley. The Sun was not laughing at him this day. It was smiling on him. It's my day, he thought. He arrived at the Pick-a-Part. Van Man got the correct measurements of the back door and entered the gate. The lot was full as fork-lifts brought vehicles to and fro. He searched up and down the rows of shattered autos. Van Man turned a corner at a rusted-out shit ford and spotted the treasure. A single ray of sunshine beamed onto the slivers of glass at the base of the old Chevy Van. It seemed to sparkle. And he had found it. The Chevy tire mount. Van Man compared the measurements. Perfect match. Hallelujah motherfucker, thought Van Man. He laid out his tools like a surgeon and went to work. He WD-40'd the bolts just to be safe. Van Man applied the ratchet to the first bolt. It broke off instantly. The bolt was so rusted that it crumbled with a little torque. The second bolt snapped apart like the first and Van Man was half-way there. Two more bolts remained and it had only been five minutes since he spotted the van. Too easy, he thought. And he was right. The last two bolts became the dragons that Van Man would have to slay. Three hours later, Van Man had vanquished the demons and held the tire mount above his head. Victory. Van Man needed to celebrate. He decided to attend a Halloween party. After all, he had his costume and needed to test it out.
  The evening arrived and Van Man's van pulled into a grocery store parking lot. It was close to his destination and the perfect place to get into costume. First went on the Santa pants, then boots. He put on the Santa coat. Van Man wrapped the extra long black belt around his waist and tied a knot to keep it from falling off. He put on the twenty year-old wig and beard. Next came the hat. The final touches to his Bad Santa outfit were the cigarette that hung out of his mouth and the bag full of naughty and nice presents. Van Man looked at himself in the window of his van. Wonderfully nasty.
  "Look guys, it's Santa!", proclaimed a male voice. Van Man turned around and saw a car with a Father and his Two Kids. The Kids had an awkward smile. The Father got a good look at Van Man and drove away.
  Van Man arrived at the apartment where the party took place. He knocked on the door. The door opened and a man dressed as a girl scout greeted him. Van Man walked in. To his surprise, the Halloween party had a theme. Troop Beverly Hills. There were all sorts of girl scouts and even a Shelly DuVall. Where the hell is Craig T. Nelson?, he thought.
  There was no time to waste. The Van Man turned to his Greeter Girl Scout and asked if he had been naughty or nice. The Greeter Girl Scout told him naughty. Van Man reached into his bag of presents and pulled out a condom. "Here you are, sonny", said Van Man. The Greeter Girl Scout looked at the yellow-colored condom in his hand. "Um, thanks Santa..."
  Van Man continued on into the party. Some that were naughty received condoms. Those that were nice received condoms. The few that said they had been really naughty received pregnancy tests and lube. The party exploded from there. Drunk karaoke and piano players filled the night. One-thirty struck and Van Man knew it was time to leave. He said his goodbyes to Troop Beverly Hills and whisked off in his sleigh van.
  The Moon glistened high above and the van pulled into its spot at the park. The Van Man disconnected his battery and noticed a message written in the dirt. It said JESUS SAVES and he could only guess the Red Truck Couple were the culprits. They had been naughty but he was out of condoms.

A Halloween Story

  The Sun laughed. It was hot that October day before Halloween. The Van Man had decided that he needed to park under some shade. That was the only way to go. He found a spot under a big spooky tree by the library. It was perfect. He disconnected his battery, as usual, and laid down a pillow by the cooler of meat. Van Man stretched out in the back of the van and before he knew it, he was asleep.
  His eyes slowly opened. He stared at the ceiling. Van Man sensed something unusual. He looked out the side window. It was pitch black. Damn, I slept a long time, thought Van Man. He looked toward the end of the van and saw Two Children at the back windows. They stared at him. Van Man was frozen. Not from fear. From confusion. Suddenly, the Two Children pointed at Van Man and shrieked in horror. Van Man jumped up. He banged his head on the roof and nearly collapsed. The Children shrieked louder. Van Man was scared and needed to get away. He jumped into the front seat and realized that he did not have his keys. He searched the van floor. The Children ran up the side of the van and banged on the windows and doors. They shrieked even louder. Van Man found the keys.
  "Motherfucker!", screamed a male voice from afar. Van Man looked out the passenger side window and spotted a Large Man with a baseball bat across the street on a lawn. "Jesus", muttered The Van Man. The Large Man with the baseball bat marched towards the van. Van Man jumped in the front seat. He shoved the key into the ignition and turned it. Nothing. Fuck, the battery, he thought. Van Man looked over and Large Man with the baseball bat was closer. Van Man jumped out of the van and accidentally knocked one of the shrieking Children to the ground. The Child halted his shriek for a moment to assess his situation. The Child took a breath. Then he let out a wail louder than Van Man thought was humanly possible. Van Man ran to the front of his van and opened the hood. He looked around. People stared at him from their living room windows. The Children's shrieks and wails continued. He connected the lever to the battery and slammed the hood shut. Van Man looked across the street. The Large Man was gone. Van Man ran around to the the driver's side door and stopped dead in his tracks. The Large Man stood at the door and he held the baseball bat.
"You fucked with the wrong kids, rapist motherfucker.", said the Large Man.
"What? No-no! I'm not, listen, man--I didn't rape!", pleaded Van Man.
"You're dead, motherfucker!"
"No-wait! I was sleeping!"
"Dead!"
  Van Man stepped backwards and tripped on the wailing Child. He fell to the ground. The Large Man stomped towards The Van Man as he crawled back. The Large Man raised the bat high over his head. Van Man was frozen in fear. The bat came down and smashed Van Man's ankle into pieces. The pain soared through him and he let out a wail that bested the child's.
"Kill him, Frank!", yelled the children.
  The Large Man continued to bash the Van Man with his bat. The Van Man screamed. The People were no longer at their living room windows. They had joined the mayhem in the street. The People surrounded the brutality. After Large Man finished smashing Van Man, he pulled out a knife. Van Man was broken and he spit up blood. Some of his teeth were gone. His legs were obliterated. Both wrists were in fragments. The Large Man handed the knife to one of the Children. "Finish him.", said The Large Man. The Children smiled at each other and giggled. They looked back at Van Man and stared at him with insane eyes. They rushed over to his body. "...no...no, no...ple...please...", begged Van Man. The Child with the knife stuck it into Van Man's throat. He gurgled in pain. One Child held up his head while the other sawed through the neck bone. Van Man's legs and arms twisted in agony. When they had finished, the Children held up The Van Man's head high above their own. The moon shined mightily and the celebration of Samhain had commenced. Halloween had come and the Children received their treat early.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Cough

  It perplexed The Van Man. It had invaded his life for a month. It would sneak up on him in the dead of night or It would disrupt his abilities while he worked the construction gig. He would swing an ax and hack up a lung. It was relentless and sporadic. A mystery. A hypocritical affliction. It came and went when It felt like a party. Van Man had traced the origin of the cough to an interlude with a friend over the course of three nights. The friend was Mr. Funny and he liked to smoke. Van Man would smoke with his friend. After all, his Mother taught him to always be polite. Each night was followed by hard labor which consisted of digging massive amounts of dry dirt. The dust clouds did not help contain The Cough.
  In truth, The Cough had been around for a bit longer than a month. Van Man seemed to remember a long, drawn-out fight with The Cough during his run as Aufidius. Six weeks of Shakespeare in a dank and dirty former punk bar downtown did not help subdue his affliction. That had been over two months prior.
  He had done the right things to end Its reign. Juice. Water. Over-the-counter. Under-the-counter. In-the-counter. Nothing squashed the gangrel. Maybe I'm dying, thought Van Man. He humored himself for a moment. He thought of many mourners at a service inside an incredible temple of worship. The scene possessed him. He thought of a Priest as he stood in front of the mass audience. The Priest spoke gentle words. A message of hope and forgiveness. Then the Priest became enraged and ripped off his shirt revealing a tattooed torso. He wagged his six-inch tongue at the crowd. AC/DC's "Gimme a Bullet" began blasting from behind the pulpit somewhere. A tribute band entered from the outer wings and played like they were performing at a dive bar on Bon Scott's birthday. Two ladies stood up from the crowd and took off their clothes. Naked, they rushed the altar and gyrated to the music. The shirtless Priest could not take it anymore and confronted the first row of mourners in an attempt to get people on their feet and to rock. He screamed into the microphone, "I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!"
  The day-dream ended abruptly as The Van Man began to cough again. It was a burden. He was not scared of the lingering Cough. Just concerned. Concerned because LA had a way of getting cold in the winter. A certain type of cold in the winter nights that killed off the homeless. Their bodies became so accustomed to the warmth of Southern California that when the chill arrived it caused a brutal shock to the system. The strong survived. The weak perished. The Van Man would see which one he was. Just don't end up like Pollard in Scrooged, he thought. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Morning After

  It was Saturday morning. Nine-thirty. The Van Man had not slept in over twenty-four hours. He was tired and drained. He did not even have the energy to roll out his sheet or put on pajamas. Comfort did not matter to him at that moment. He placed a pillow at the base of the cooler where he kept the meat and laid his head down. Van Man thought about the previous day.
  Friday. The Van Man had work at an estate sale. The house was full of Stuff. Stuff everywhere. Antique Stuff. Crystal Stuff. Fishing Stuff. The ravenous people really wanted the fishing Stuff. The door opened and the horde of Huns rushed in. The barbarians had their way with all the Stuff. Except for the Christmas Stuff which sat untouched in the living room. While the house was raped and pillaged, Van Man spotted a Santa suit among the Christmas Items. Maybe a Psycho Santa, he thought. It was an idea. The festival of Samhain approached. Devil's Night. All Hallow's Eve. The sale continued and the amount of Stuff in the house lessened. The Things found better homes.
  At one point, a Young Gentleman who really was not interested in the Stuff took in the view from the back patio. Almost instantly, he recognized the scenery. "Oh, wow, that's the bridge from Chinatown. Where Nicholson inspects the dry riverbed." Van Man was intrigued. He looked out onto the scenery. He knew that the former occupants of the house had lived there for over fifty years. They had been witness to the filming of the iconic picture. Van Man saw the bridge. He was moved. Van Man also saw the golf course that had replaced the riverbed. "Not a riverbed no more", said the Young Gentleman. He was correct.
  The work day ended and Van Man was off to meet the excitement of the evening. Twelve straight hours of horror movies at an all-night horror-thon at a little theater in West Hollywood. But he would have to hurry to beat the Friday LA traffic. Van Man drove through Burbank and over the pass into Hollywood. He realized he needed lots of caffeine in order to make it through the night. He remembered the theater. The seats were rough. No give to them. The caffeine would help. He decided on chocolate-covered espresso beans. They would do the trick.
  Four o'clock. He arrived at the theater three hours early. It was right across the street from Fairfax High and the Lions had a home game that night. They were one and five, but they would still draw a good crowd. Better to be early and get good parking, he thought.
  Van Man pumped change into the meter and disconnected his battery. He crawled into the back of the van and made himself an early dinner of raw broccoli and pepperoni/ham/spinach roll-ups. He made sure to throw in a few crumbles of Salt and Vinegar potato chips. After all, he was not an animal. Van Man finished his meal and waited on his friend and fellow all-nighter to arrive.
  Five o'clock and Mr. Funny arrived. He was Van Man's friend and they proceeded to walk to the gas station for snacks. Mr. Funny was a humorous chap with a tendency to chain smoke. A relaxed Denis Leary minus the profane. They arrived at the gas station. Mr. Funny bought his smokes. Van Man could not find the chocolate-covered espresso beans. He would have to see what the concession booth had. The two All-Nighters left the gas station and headed for Canter's for a quick bite to eat. Van Man was not hungry but he could always go for a coffee. The waitress had not had a good day and let the All-Nighters know it. A few times. She wanted a good tip. Something to make her day. Something to help her buy food or pay bills or whatever it was that she needed. A plate of fries and a soda and a coffee was all that was on the receipt. Van Man and Mr. Funny guessed she thought they were made of money. Mr. Funny left a couple of dollars. He figured she needed it more than him.
  It was finally time to go to the theater. The time was near. Van Man and Mr. Funny arrived to find Three Goons already in line. Van Man asked one of the Goons if the concession stand would be open throughout the night. "I don't know, good question. You should have come prepared", replied The Goon. The Van Man was quite sure that The Goon did not know he lived in a van which was parked twenty feet away. It was a van that contained all types of preparations. Food. Water. Pillows. Condoms. That dork has no need for condoms, thought Van Man.
  Seven o'clock. The line had become thick with All-Nighters of various sizes, shapes, sexes and beards. The Lions had started their game across the street and an energy was in the air. The doors opened. Mr. Funny and Van Man found seats and prepared for the evening. Mr. Funny pulled out his cache of whiskey shooters while Van Man pulled out his Kit Kats that he bought at the concession stand. Van Man did not want to drink booze. He had stayed sober for a few weeks. The solitude of van life came at a price and the drink's toll on his spirit did not come cheaply. Eh, it's one night, right?, he thought and poured a shot into his soda.
  The movies began. Twelve hours. Horror movies from various sub-genres. Classic Creature Features. Seventies Obscure. Mainstream Euro Cuts. Eighties Gore-Outs. Italian Fantasy. And even Pauly Shore. The night was grand and luscious.
  Seven-thirty in the morning. The screening ended. The All-Nighters filed out into the day. The Sun was wide awake and laughing at Van Man and Mr. Funny. Van Man drove his compadre home and they exchanged farewells. Sleep was knocking on both of their doors. Van Man drove north on Sepulveda. Back to the Valley. As he drove, he thought about the movies he had just viewed. Those films had not been screened in LA for over fifteen years. A few of them had not been screened since they were released nearly thirty-five years before. Van Man wondered what the audiences were like back then. Were they that much different?, he thought. Longer hair and muscle cars...and no condoms. 
  Nine o'clock. He needed to brush the coffee and chocolate out of his mouth. Van Man pulled into the grocery store and grabbed his morning utensils. He went inside and found the Men's Room. He brushed his teeth and combed his hair. Splashed water onto his face. Took a piss. He was together.
  Nine-thirty. The van pulled under a nice shade by the library. Van Man situated his tired carcass onto the floor of the van. He was exhausted and comfort did not matter. His eyelids wanted to close. They drooped lower and lower. Before the sleep engulfed him, Van Man noticed his toe as it rubbed against the Santa outfit he had gotten from the sale. He was happy and shut his eyes. The Sun was high and children played. The Van Man slept in his van, peacefully. The Halloween season had officially begun and he finally had a costume.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Return of The Monster Maker

  Things had a way of working out. That was the simple philosophy which many lived by. The Van Man was one of those people. The Monster Maker was also one of those people. The Monster Maker was a man of character with a Dr. Frankenstein soul. His purpose in life was to create. In his case, it was creatures.
  Van Man and The Monster Maker had become fast friends on a horror movie set years before. At one point, Van Man had lived in The Monster Maker's crypt. A home for the wicked. An abode made for the blackest of souls. Van Man loved it. Horror was the name and The Monster Maker played the game. But LA has a way of bleeding you out while The Sun shines its deceptive rays and makes everything seem so golden. It bled The Monster Maker. He took his bride and traveled east. Florida. The home of oranges and swamps and a genuine southern charm that intoxicated him. The Monster Maker decided he did not want to make monsters anymore. He wanted to make a family. And he did.
  In LA, Van Man sweated it out. His friend was gone. Much worse, however, was the dream had died for his comrade. Van Man continued on even without being quite certain of which path to take. He lived in a van. A beautiful van, but a van. He auditioned and he drank coffee and he dug dirt and he swung sledge hammers. On a Sunday, Van Man had an audition for a play by a man named Ibsen. Something that was pure. Van Man could have used something pure. But he had been on a mighty cold streak. The auditions did not come as much as they had in the heat of September and fear had set in. Am I done?, he thought. He went to the audition. It went well. They all seemed to go well.
  In the east, The Monster Maker had an epiphany. The "normal" life he had taken on with the "normal" job was not what he wanted. He appreciated the life and the people who could do "normal". The world needs some normal, he thought. The Monster Maker was not "normal" and wanted no part of it. He needed his fingers to mold and paint. His mind needed to imagine the gnarly and his arms needed to create it. He was thirty-three and he had just begun. The decision was made.
  In the west, Van Man earned some filthy money and philosophized about his place in the universe. The two things he did mostly. The phone rang. It was the Casting Director from the play and she offered Van Man the role he had auditioned for. He gladly accepted. He hung up and knew there was no need to doubt. He was good. And he wanted to be great. There was still time.
  After some time, the phone rang again. It was The Monster Maker. Van Man listened intently as The Monster Maker made official his return to the creature creation life. They conversed for a long time and touched on a number of subjects that ranged from the moral compass of their generation to the relentless spirit of a true dreamer. It was a good talk. It was better. It was a great one. The phone call ended and Van Man felt anew. He did not feel the loneliness that comes with the chase for a dream. He knew that his friend, The Monster Maker, was still in the chase. They were in it together and they were only thirty-three.
  Van Man relaxed in the back of his van. Dusk had settled into evening and Halloween approached. The Van Man had not a clue what his costume would be. But he was at ease. After all, things had a way of working out.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Midnight Dig

  The Van Man was tired. Dog tired. He and the Irishman had worked the day away filling a ten-ton dumpster completely full of dirt and bricks. Van Man was worked to the bone and just wanted to get back to the park. He drove up Sepulveda and imagined himself in the back of his van with curtains closed. He imagined himself on top of the rolled out bed sheets and asleep. Sound asleep. But he was dirty and The Van Man had to get clean. The gym was his first stop.
  It was late afternoon. Van Man hoped that the locker room was not full. He knew better. It was Thursday and people in LA loved to work out after work. Especially on Thursdays.
  The gym was crowded, but the locker room was not. Van Man found an acceptable locker and then slogged his way to the shower stalls. His body was caked in dirt and dead spiders. The water splashed down onto his body. It was a miracle. Van Man got clean.
  Van Man got back to his van. He was happy. Being clean can do that to a person. He also had a wad of filthy money in his pocket. Filthy money earned from the filthy job. A wad of money had a way of bringing happiness as well.
  The evening progressed and The Van Man ran errand after errand. It was late and he had finally made it to the park. The van pulled in to its usual spot. Its headlights illuminated two people playing in the dirt. Kids, thought Van Man. He got out of the van and disconnected the battery. A nightly ritual of Van Man's. He realized that the two kids who dug in the dirt at nine o'clock at night were The Young Couple from the Red Truck. And the two dug in the dirt with a determination more fierce than Van Man and the Irishman had earlier in the day. The Young Couple seemed artistic in their approach. They nodded at Van Man and he nodded back. The Young Couple had sheets draped over them as they dug and created. They're on acid, Van Man thought.
  The night wore on and Van Man woke up every so often to peek out his van window. The Young Couple continued to dig in the dirt. Van Man's body ached. He needed sleep but The Young Couple fascinated him. At midnight, The Young Couple ceased their dig and went to sleep. Van Man knew they had created something psychedelic out in the darkness. He was just too damn tired to move. The moon was full and Friday had come. The Van Man slept, comforted by the lunacy that October brought.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Answer To Everything

  I HAVE A SMALL DICK, read the message written in dust on the Jetta's back window. Van Man looked down onto the car from his van's high perch. He was in the midst of Valley rush-hour traffic and the heat was on. The message was hard to read. He first thought it said I HAVE A SMASH DICK. He was not sure if that was shorthand for "smashing dick" or if it was part of the new sex lingo. Van Man had heard the new breed use phrases like "I need to smash" and "we smashed" when they referred to fucking. Smash meant fuck to many of the millennials.
  Van Man had worked the day away on a construction gig with Big Jim, an Irishman from Missouri with a shock of hair as red as the ass of Satan. The two dug trenches of dirt and chopped down trees with chainsaws. It was October, the month of horror. Van Man thought the chainsaw use apropos for the season. The day ended and the two collected their pay. Van Man said goodbye to Big Jim and watched as the Irishman got into his own red van and drove away. Van Man and Big Jim were van people. This was understood.
  The ride home was a brief history of time while The Sun beat down. Van Man's mind raced though time and space. All the way to the Big Bang and beyond. He was certain he was close to the revelation of the great mystery of life. It all came down to pattern and repetition. In the beginning was the Big Bang. But that was not the beginning. It was the end. The Universe had contracted to the most infinitesimal point. This point of space harvested incalculable pressure and The Big Bang happened. The Van Man grew more excited with the next revelation. Before the Universe contracted it expanded. It had been in expansion for billions of years just like it was in Van Man's time. And it expanded from a Big Bang. That Big Bang was caused by a Universe contracting before it. And so on and so on. Time and space expanded and contracted. Expansion and contraction. Over and over like a heart beat. And there was the answer. The Van Man had realized that he was a small part of a truly organic thing. A large beast of some kind. He and the Universe were similar to Dennis Quaid's pilot in Innerspace. Just a tiny thing that floated around inside an enormous being. Was this God? Did this mean there was a God? Was this the clue to how to save the world? Van Man was on the cusp of the discovery when a much more important discovery occurred. AC/DC had just released their brand new single from their brand new album. And it rocked.
  Van Man was satisfied with his discovery and he drove to the coffee shop to take in the brand new sound. The Sun gave way to the Moon and the Stars shined. The Van Man listened to new rock from old legends and all seemed complete with the world.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

All the Spiders

  October had arrived and The Van Man was happy. It was his favorite time of year. It had always been. A month full of ghosts and goblins and Ghoulies. He had a two-week construction gig and was two days into it. The job was harsh and taxing on the body. There was much dirt to be dug and slung into dumpsters. There was a plethora of concrete slabs and bricks that had to be lifted and moved. And The Sun was a prison guard. It  presided over Van Man and the Young Fellow he worked alongside. He could not help think of the film Cool Hand Luke. Gettin' wata' here boss, thought Van Man as he guzzled water from the Niagara bottle. Luke and Dragline slung the dirt and sweated and dug the dirt and sweated and lifted the slabs and sweated and pushed the wheel barrel and sweated. Van Man reminded himself that it was good money.
  The work was not a problem for Van Man. He could handle most anything. Then The Spiders came. They were mean and nasty. They were hairy and dangerous. They were everywhere. Under the bricks that were to be moved. Beneath the concrete slabs that had to be lifted. Inside the dirt that needed to be dug out. And they were hungry.
  When Van Man had been a young fuck, he had seen a film about spiders terrorizing a small town. Arachnophobia was the title of that flick. Good title. The spiders in that film killed and preyed and killed some more. That was the lesson that Young Fuck Van Man learned. And years later, Van Man still knew that was what spiders do. They like that shit, he thought. 
  Van Man could not escape them. The Spiders surrounded him as he worked. A cruel joke to play on Van Man. He worked harder and the sweat poured down his face. The Spiders would crawl onto The Van Man's gloves and arms and he would fling them off and bash them good with a boot or a shovel. The gig had become a mini war. They were ghastly in appearance. Some were hairy black ones with white skulls on their backs. Some were fiery orange ones sent from the Devil himself. And still a few more were brown ones and Van Man knew those had to be Brown Recluses ready to fucking kill him. They're tryin' to get me, thought Van Man. And he was right. Before the day had ended, a Black Widow was unearthed. And it was angry. It wanted blood. The blood of the man who disturbed its sleep. Van Man dropped the concrete slab and crushed the monster. 
  The weekend arrived and The Heatwave Part II was in its second week of box office reign. Van Man had spent the night and following day swatting away invisible Spiders. They were on him. He knew it. The ghosts of The Spiders had come to haunt him. Halloween approached. And The Van Man had not even thought of a costume.