Whelp... Week two is here and it’s time for another Dennis Timothy feature!!
Today we will be getting a glimpse into
One Heartbeat Past Normal by Dennis Timothy!
Imaginative, quirky, and always surprising! Meet the ordinary players on life's stage whose realities are forever changed by chance meetings with supernatural forest dwellers, mysterious things in the sky, murder plots by evil antiques, and a talking tattoo. These occurrences and more collected in fifteen short stories each ending with its own unique twist.
Do you want to read a quick taste?
"Mr. Clifton Cooper, you will account for your activities over the past two weeks," said Dr. Weatherspan. The flat of his hand banged down on his desktop as he delivered the last three words.
I sat there in a chair, in front of the man's desk, thinking about my answer. I had never really liked Dr. Weatherspan. He was pompous in his attitude, demeaning in his conversation, and overweight with a moist appearance to him.
I watched as he settled back in his chair, his blue eyes staring at me over the tops of his glasses, which sat perched at the very end of his round nose. His face was florid, and his lips were almost purple in color as they peeked out from a large gray mustache.
"You have to understand, Dr. Weatherspan, this type of work takes time," I said.
"Nonsense," said Dr. Weatherspan, "your work, and I use the term loosely, blights the face of scientific endeavor, and the reputation of this school in particular. I can't believe I helped you with your grant request. That was a moment of personal weakness, if ever there were one."
The bulky man leaned forward in his chair, his elbows touching the top of his desk as he leaned his chin on the laced fingers of his hands. "But, I intend to correct that as well. You will produce something meaningful, inside of the next two weeks, or I intend to disassociate myself with both your work and your doctoral thesis."
"You can't mean that, Dr. Weatherspan," I said. "That's not fair, and it's certainly not enough time."
The corners of the man's lips crept into his jowls, as he smiled at me and said, "Oh, I certainly do mean that. This farce of a research project of yours has wasted enough of my time, and can only result in personal ridicule in the scientific community."
"I admit that my research has taken a slightly different path, based on my interests, but that doesn't mean it's not important work," I said.
"Your work," the man snorted. "What you are pursuing is high silliness of the first order. You hoodwinked me into helping you with that grant application, the purpose of which was to be zoology. You are now exploring some form of pseudoscience, crypto zoology if you prefer, and you are now operating well outside the bounds of your grant proposal."
"Dr. Weatherspan, simply because you do not agree with me does not make my pursuits a pseudoscience. I tell you, there is something to be discovered in those woods. Folkloric sources have reported the same mysterious stories for generations. I intend to discover the source of those stories, and present my findings to this University and the scientific community at large."
"It's not going to happen," said Dr. Weatherspan, "because there is nothing there. You are pursuing the ghosts of your own imagination. When I first met you, I thought you to be both mature and thoughtful. I now see that I was wrong on both counts."
The man leaned back in his chair again, which screeched in protest as he adjusted his bulk. "But I am a reasonable man, that's why I have given you two additional weeks. And I expect notes of your work, your itinerary, and your expenditures. This means a daily update from you concerning your progress. This disappearing act of yours, with no word from you for a month, comes to an end, now."
The man rattled me for a second, and I slapped my hands to the tops of my knees. "You know that in this line of work, nothing meaningful is discovered in two weeks. I have provided you with some of the notes of my findings. And what about the evidence from the trail cameras?"
"Please, you have two pictures of shadows. I hardly call that conclusive evidence," said Dr. Weatherspan.
"Dammit, man. Can't you see? Something cast those shadows," I said.
"Something, anything, or nothing could've been responsible for your so-called evidence," he said. "I'm not wasting my time arguing this absurdity with you. You've heard my terms, and now you may leave."
I glared at the man for a second, before I stood and left the room, slamming the door behind me. I marched down the hall, anger lending speed to my steps, until I realized I was going the wrong way.
Fury and panic had seized me. I stopped, and leaned my hand against the cool marble of the wall. I took a couple of deep breaths. "Shake it off," I thought.
I turned in the proper direction, and in strides which looked more confident than they felt, I left Brighton Hall.
I walked down the two short flights of concrete steps to the parking lot below. I went to my motorcycle, a dark blue Kawasaki, which was fun to ride but a real pain in inclement weather.
I threw my leg over the seat, balanced on the machine, and reached back for my helmet. I buckled the chin strap, pulled the key from my pocket, and started the big machine. The engine rumbled to life. I squeezed the clutch, dropped it in gear, and tore out of the lot.
Fifteen minutes later, I pulled into the driveway of the small house I rented. With its curling shingles, peeling brown paint, and flaking white trim, it looked as forlorn as I felt. I kicked the stand down with my left foot, hopped off the bike, and hooked my helmet to the back of the seat.
I walked into the house, and stood for a second in the living room. I thought about what Dr. Weatherspan had said to me. It was my belief that something strange was occurring in a place known as Robert's Woods. For sixty years, the locals in that area told stories of mysterious goings-on. People had lost pets, been pelted with stones, heard strange noises, and been attacked by something they couldn't see. Nobody had been seriously injured, just scratches and bruises, but nobody who fell victim to such an occurrence ever returned to those woods.
So now I had two weeks left to find this damned thing, whatever it is, and satisfy Dr. Weatherspan. The man was an unrelenting idiot. It mystified me how such an arrogant wretch could have worked his way up to the position he held.
But I didn't have time to worry about that now. I went to my bedroom and grabbed my backpack, which was already packed with the things I would need. It held my camera, notebook, pencils, pens, tape measure, GPS device, digital recorder, and all the other things I was using to bring an end to this mystery at Robert's Woods.
I slung the bag over one shoulder, walked to the kitchen, and set it on the small, cheap dining table. I opened the refrigerator and grabbed the lunch I put up the night before, and a bottle of water. I stuffed these things into the bag.
I'm not a vegan but one of my specialties is a grilled portabella mushroom, glazed with a balsamic vinegar and brown sugar reduction. This, nestled between two slabs of sourdough bread, was the main feature of my lunch. One of the few things I had to look forward to today.
I carried the bag to the door, grabbed a light jacket from the coat hook, and walked outside to the bike. I set the backpack on the drive as I pulled on the jacket. I reached back for my helmet, put it on, and wiped at the remains of a small bug, which had expired in the middle of my tinted faceplate, with the back of my jacket-sleeved arm. I reached down and pulled on the backpack. I gunned the big motorcycle to life, dropped it into first gear, and rolled from the drive into the street.
I rode fast, working my way through the gears, and reaching Highway 131 in about fifteen minutes. I headed north, and really let the big machine unwind. Forty-five minutes later I slowed the bike, and turned onto County Road C. I twisted and turned down the road, driving slowly and carefully on the white gravel. Twenty minutes later I parked the bike on the shoulder of the road, on the bluff overlooking Robert's Woods.
I hadn't realized how upset I was until, as I climbed down to the level below, in my mind's eye I could see myself pushing Dr. Weatherspan down this very hill. The mental image of it both amused and shocked me. I enjoyed the thought of his large arrogant butt rolling down the hill, but I'm not a violent person, usually.
The area I was examining was fairly open, about half the size of a football field, populated with a dozen large red oak trees. In the spring and summer, these trees formed an almost impenetrable canopy of leaves fastened to branches high overhead. Only the occasional clumps of runt sumac, and the rare tufts of grass, were able to survive the shadow of these massive oak trees. Now the leaves had fallen from their posts, and lay in a thick, noisy carpet on the ground beneath the trees.
Blue jays, squirrels, animal game trails, and the blue sky above were my companions in this area, known to the locals as "The Hollow". I stepped over a large downed log, and then sat on it. I pulled the backpack from my shoulders, unzipped it, and reached inside for a trail camera. The camera had two yellow and black bungee cords wrapped around it. I set the camera on the log, and pulled out my lunch and the bottle of water. I set these on the log as well, and hung the backpack from a nearby branch.
I stood and begin moving in noisy, crackling steps towards one of the oak trees in the clearing, about fifty yards from the log upon which I placed my things. Arriving at the tree, I knelt at its base and began the nearly impossible task of trying to stretch my arms, and the bungee cords, around the massive trunk.
After a struggle, which left me with scratches on my wrists, I finally attached the camera to the tree. I wedged two twigs between the top of the camera body and the trunk of the tree, to hold the device parallel with the ground. I twisted the control knob on the front of the camera, activating the laser aiming light. It was my intention to aim the camera at a major game trail near a copse of sumac bushes. As I turned to look down the trail, I noticed someone sitting on the log, holding the bag containing my lunch on his lap. I was astonished to see he was chewing on my sandwich.
I pulled the camera around to the general direction of the log, and turned the control to "On". I scrambled my feet, and yelled, "Hey, what the hell do you think you're doing?" The man on the log waved to me, and continued to eat my sandwich.
In noisy, crunching strides I moved towards the man. He was short of stature, and dressed as a country person. The ankle-length brown boots he wore on his feet swung back and forth through the air, just clearing the ground, and revealing red and white striped socks. His faded blue overalls were inches too short for him. He wore a brown work coat, and a rumpled green hat.
The little man smiled at my approach. Tufts of white hair sprouted from beneath his cap and curled around the tops of his ears. He had a large Roman nose, which ended in a point. His dark eyes appeared too large for his pixie face. He carried a large leather pouch which hung at his side, held in place by a single wide strap over his shoulder.
"Who are you?" I said.
"Portabella mushrooms. I love portabella mushrooms. Very difficult to get," he said. He had a high-pitched voice, and spoke in a sing-song manner. As he answered, he chewed with his mouth open.
"Who are you?" I repeated.
"Portabellas. They are the best."
I leaned in closer, and said, "I want to know who you are, and what gives you the right to eat my sandwich?"
The little man leaned back on the log slightly, his large dark eyes searching my face. He hesitated for a moment, and then said, "I am Aloysius." His legs still swung happily back and forth on the log.
"Okay, Aloysius. What are you doing here? And, why did you eat my sandwich?"
"I live here," said the little man. "I am a Marcon."
"A Marcon? Is that your last name? Does your family live around here?" I said.
The little man circled his hand through the air. "Yes, yes. I live right here."
Understanding was beginning to dawn upon me. "You mean, you live right here. Right here in these woods. Is that what you mean?"
"Yes, yes." The little man began to point in different directions. "Sometimes over there. And, sometimes over there. And, sometimes, even far away in that direction."
"So, you live here, in these woods. Do you live here with your family?"
The smile vanished from the little man's face, and his look grew serious as he tilted his head and answered, "There's no family, only me. These are my woods. Nobody comes into my woods."
"So your name is Aloysius Marcon. You have no family. And you live in these woods," I said.
"You are slow. My name is Aloysius. I am a Marcon. There are others like me, but they live in other places. These are my woods."
"Do you mind if I sit here with you for a minute, Aloysius?" I said.
Before he answered, I swung around and took a seat on the log about two feet away from the little man. His large dark eyes followed my movements, and I could tell he was becoming agitated. I placed my hands to the tops of my knees, hoping the non-threatening gesture would put him at ease.
"A Marcon. So, Aloysius, what is a Marcon?"
The little man thought for a moment before answering me, his dark eyes blinking a couple of times. "I suppose your kind would call me a troll, or a fairy, or, more probably, a goblin."
"And how long have you lived in these woods?" I said.
"I don't really keep track of things like that. I suppose one hundred fifty or one hundred sixty years."
"That's bull. I don't believe you," I said. "Nobody lives a hundred and sixty years."
"If you don't like the answer, you shouldn't ask the question." The little man giggled at me. He licked what remained of the glaze of the sandwich from his fingertips, and threw the plastic wrapping to the ground.
"Have you ever played tricks, or done mean things to people who walk through your woods?" I asked.
"Do mean things? I would never do mean things. I just shoo people out of my woods. I have my ways. They don't come back. These are my woods."
"I've spent a considerable amount of time in these woods, Aloysius. Why haven't I seen you before?"
As the little man looked at me, I was fascinated by those large dark eyes. The expression on his face approached something akin to a smile, as he said, "I prefer the nighttime. The woods are very noisy in the daytime. Too many distractions, very difficult to get my work done, and the bright light hurts my eyes."
"But, you're here now," I said. "It's the middle of the afternoon."
Yes," said Aloysius. "Usually, I wouldn't start my work for another four or five hours. But the smell of the mushrooms you brought into my woods woke me from my nap. Worth the trip outside during the daylight to get the mushrooms."
As a researcher, I would certainly need more conclusive evidence. But it would appear that the answer to my problems with Dr. Weatherspan had just eaten my sandwich, and was sitting next to me on the log.
"I see. In that case, let me say it is very nice meeting you, Aloysius."
I leaned forward and slowly reached for my backpack. I glanced over and noticed the little man was staring at me intently, following my every movement. I reached into the bag, and pulled out a digital camera.
"What is that?" he asked.
"Nothing much, just a camera," I said. I slid its power button to "On".
"What is a camera for?" I could hear the nervousness creep into his voice.
"Nothing to get excited about," I said. "It just takes your picture."
"No," he said. "No picture."
"It won't hurt you, Aloysius. It's only a picture."
"No picture," the little man screamed at me.
"I'm sorry, Aloysius. But, right now I'm in a jam. And it would take far too long for me to explain the circumstances to you. I'm going to get some pictures, and then I'm going to ask you some questions, and then I'm going to leave. And if you let me come back later, I'll bring some more portabella mushroom sandwiches."
"No, I won't let you. I'm faster than I look." He hopped from the log and prepared to run. "My kind are very fast."
I lunged forward, and caught the shoulder of his work coat. I held him in place as his feet drummed the ground. "I guess you're not that fast, are you?" I said.
He spun in his coat, and said, "Wanna bet?" His hand flashed to his pouch, and he threw something at me. The thing hit me above my right eye. It felt soft and squishy, and smelled.
Oh God, it smelled horrible, a mixture of rotting flesh, ripe manure, and ammonia. I rubbed at it with my hand, and the smell worsened. The palm of my hand was covered with a dull brown stain. I rubbed my hand on my pants leg, and my fingers were covered with the same brown stain.
The little man danced back away from me. "That's goblin daubie; it won't come off that way. The more you rub, the more it spreads," he giggled. He turned, and dashed off.
"Come back here," I cried.
I jumped to my feet, preparing to run after him, when the smell hit me again. Essence of skunk, rotting fish and strong bleach mixed in my nose and burned my eyes. I doubled over, retching, trying to breathe. When I got control of myself, I looked around, and the little man was gone.
Just to let you know...
I am currently reading One Heartbeat Past Normal and will have my review ready for all of you next week! SO be sure to come back and see what I thought of the book!
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