Protect Ya Neck, by Edward Taylor
Went against the grain with this one. Unlike most stories in this collection, this does not take place at a Freak Show…but it is freaky and has enough southern flavor to make the cut. Excuse the pun. If the story had been set in a carny or circus, it would have been perfect. Nevertheless, I’m sure readers will agree that marriage can sometimes be enough of a freak show for anyone. At least anyone unlucky enough to have a marriage like this one. Yikes.
Jimmy had every PEZ dispenser imaginable. He had the rare ones, the semi-rare ones; even the common ones found a place the shelf of his collector’s case. He did not see them as collectibles; they were more like his children. Not that he didn’t have real life flesh and blood children, it’s just they did not bring him the same pleasure that his ones crafted of finely injection molded plastic. He loved the feeling of them in his hands, the sound the spring makes when they are pulled back the first time revealing the sweet candy within. He loved watching the hard pressed, dry, straight edged, curved corner blocks of candy slide out with near flawless perfection. He loved the feeling all 15 mm long, 8 mm wide, 5 mm thick taste pop into his mouth each morning when he awoke. “A Peppermint after breakfast!” He would chirp to his long suffering wife. “Some Lemon at lunch!” he declared to his coworkers (who mostly ignored Jimmy’s habits and well Jimmy in general) At dinner he would espouse all of the wonders that Eduard Haas had created in his fashioning of the first PEZ candy. “Did you know that PEZ is actually a play off the German word for peppermint?” he asked his dentist for the 343rd time. There was nothing that Jimmy would not give in life as trade for his PEZ collection, but then again no one would ever ask for it now, would they?
It was a warm summer Tuesday morning when Jimmy awoke at his normal 5:47 AM sharp. He took his time getting showered, dressed and getting ready for his day before taking his normal trip down to the den of his 3 bedroom Cape Cod style home to visit with his “family” but when he arrived he noticed the door was slightly ajar. Rushing quickly to make sure that his daughter’s bitch of a mutt Meg (I mean who names a dog Meg?) had not gotten into the room again and damaged the original tin that held one of the retired flavors (he was never a fan of the “flower” flavor anyway, but it was the principle of the thing!) but what he saw was much worse: the collection was gone! Someone had “broken into the house during the night and kidnapped his children” he cried on the phone to the police department, who sent no less than 11 squad cars to his house. Less than 2 minutes later, 10 cars filled with angry police officers left the residence leaving a rookie patrolman behind to fill out the report and take statements for the insurance company. Jimmy had the entire collection insured for $500,000, which was less than what he paid for them but all the insurance company would allow for, which was also coincidentally $450,000 more than he had on his own policy in case of his accidental loss of life. He cried and bemoaned the loss of his children, his prized collection and watched as the overworked and underpaid beat cop took down as much info as possible just to get himself out of the sight of the weeping 49 year old man. “If anything turns up sir, we will call you.” the cop said to Jimmy, who was busy blubbering into his handkerchief “And if the thieves… I mean the kidnappers call you, please do us a favor and call the non-emergency number and we’ll send someone out. Maybe” he said under his breath with a chuckle as he walked out the door.
Jimmy was inconsolable. There had to be some explanation for the theft, some sign that the thieves had left, some ransom he could pay to get his precious collection back but after three days of laying in bed and crying until his eyes were red and sore and his nose had begun bleeding around the edges from too much wiping, Jimmy had nothing. His work called, they said if he was not back in the office tomorrow they would have to let him go. “Fine” he thought to himself “The bastards wanted me out anyway, they wanted Jimmy to fail” His wife and his daughter tried to get him to eat something but he said that life without his PEZ was not worth living. They tried to get him to talk to a grief counselor (first they tried a regular counselor, but he did not need therapy, so they switched to someone who would just appease him) but he saw through it and quickly dispatched them with a huff. “Why does no one understand me? Why will no one allow me to just have my time and mourn the loss I have suffered?” He shambled around the house like a zombie. He barely slept, rarely ate, and never went out. He showered only when his wife insisted that he smelled like rancid garbage left in the Charlotte sun behind a Bo Jangles and spent most of that time in the hot water trying to burn away the memories of his beloved. One day his wife left him taking their daughter and Meg with her. She said that Jimmy never cared about them and that all he cared about was his “plastic trash”. She even said she never liked the taste of PEZ, that it all was the same. He did not argue with her, to him the memory of the sweet flavors only brought to mind bitter ashes in his mouth. He did not fight back when his wife filed for divorce and requested full custody of their daughter without visitation. In his mind he had already lost the children he loved the most, so why not one more? The utilities, once in his name but moved into hers when he lost his job, were turned off. The house went into foreclosure and had to be put up for auction. He heard the sheriff tape a sign to the door that the house was to be sold as short sale to cover the growing debts that Jimmy had accrued in lawyer’s fees and bills to private investigators he hired to locate his lost collection. None of it mattered anymore.
Two days before he was to be evicted from the house that once held his darling beauties; there was a knock at the door that he did not answer. He heard the mail slot in the door open and closes with a familiar sound of papers falling to the dusty floor of the foyer. Jimmy summoned all of his pitiful willpower left in reserve for possible good news and walked to the door and saw a plain Manila envelope lying on dust. His name boldly printed on the outside in a thick black marker with a heavy underline. “It must be important” he thought, the serious penmanship gave no clue to what was inside so he peeled back the tape and out fell 4 pictures. Each one was of a different item in his collection: Betsy, Danny, and Paul from the Bicentennial edition. His “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars” were on the next one, followed by one of the cast of the “Wizard of Oz” (even his ultra rare duplicate Dorothy where Judy Garland’s eyes were two different colors), and the last one was of his ex-wife standing over a trash bin with a large bag that looked vaguely like it was filled to the brim with his collection! No! His mind cried out. NO SHE CAN’T! He screamed out loud before dropping all the pages to the floor. She wouldn’t do it, She COULDN’T DO IT! He hollered louder than he had ever before (even when that bitch dog ate the coffee tabs), he would not let her…
He fell to the floor in his dirty pajamas; filled with such murderous rage like he had never felt before was liberating, but is was also tiring to someone who has gone without proper nutrition for the past few months. His mind began hatching a plot to get back at his wife for all she had done to him and his collection. All the years he wasted trying to make it work with her. All the sessions to the marriage therapist, all the hours he listened to her cry and complain about him loving the PEZ dispensers more than her, more than their daughter, more than his own life. She was right about one thing though: he did not love her, at least not anymore. Sure there was the faint glimmer of hope when she bought him all 22 of the NASCAR™ themed dispensers that were only sold in three states, including the ultra rare Jimmie Johnson commemorative 6th Sprint Cup™ win edition that glowed in the dark, but even that was gone. He gathering the last of his meager possessions into a Lowe’s shopping bag, took one last look at the house that he once called a home, and then tossed a Molotov cocktail into the living room. The cheap, matted down carpet caught fire quickly and within minutes the whole house was ablaze with white hot flames. The flames burned it to the ground and rising from the ashes like a phoenix of vengeance was Jimmy.
It took him 9 days to track down his wife (maybe he should have checked some of those papers he was served with?) but when he did he set his plan in motion: he was going to wait until his daughter was at school, and then he was going to get her to tell him where she put the collection. Then, he was going to make her pay. At 7:45 in the AM the school bus picked up the little girl he used to call his daughter and took her off to school. His ex-wife stood in the doorway waving her hand and blowing kisses to the happy blond child who reciprocated the same god awful actions to her mother as the bus pulled out of sight. “She never did the same to me” went through his thoughts “that little bitch was probably in on it too” but he quickly dismissed it from his mind as it only caused him to lose focus from what his task was. He bolted across the street as soon as his ex turned to walk back into the house. He threw open the screen door and rushed her with a full body weight thrust of his shoulder, as she fell to the floor with a look on her face that was a mix of shock and pain, he quickly covered her mouth with his gloved hand to prevent her from crying out. He quickly mounted her and held her pinned to the floor while he bound her hands and feet together with duct tape, and then gagged her with a strip of the same. After a few minutes of struggling, Jimmy’s adrenaline had worn off and he was weakly shaking and breathing hard on the floor of her condo next to her prone form. She was crying and trying to inch away from him but the initial blow and the subsequent bounce off the floor had left her in no condition to crawl let alone fight back. Jimmy tried to sit up, but he started to feel dizzy when he moved and then passed out in a heap. When he woke up he half expected it to all be a terrible dream but there she was lying next to him; still held fast with silver tape, tears running out of her red eyes, snot draining from her nose, and a puddle of cold piss under the both of them. Jimmy jumped up, started that he had fallen unconscious and a quick search around the living room showed him that it was almost 2 hours since he arrived according to the clock on the wall. “Time to get to work” he said looking down at her, and then reached for her bound legs.
Jimmy dragged her into the kitchen and propped her up in one of the white wooden chairs she had at her farmhouse style table. “I always fucking hated your taste in decor” he spat venomously at her and then turned his attention from the distressed cabinets to the butcher block on the wooden counter top. In one fluid motion he moved to the counter, selected and drew a large blade from the block and returned to his captive. “I am going to ask you this only once” he said in a calm voice that was not unlike the one he used to speak to her in when they were first dating all those years ago, “where are they? And please note that if you scream I will cut your lips off.” He then slowly peeled off the tape as to allow him to savor the pain he was inflicting on her raw and delicate lips (and also so he could reseal it if she did try to scream) and when he was satisfied that she was not going to shout, he stepped back and waited for her reply. “YOU FUCKING PSYCHO PIECE OF SHIT! I FUCKING ALWAYS KNEW YOU WERE CRAZY BUT THIS IS FUCKING INSANE EVEN FOR A DIP SHIT LIKE YOU! MY MOTHER SAID YOU WERE GOOD FOR NOTHING AND IF I HAD NOT BEEN KNOCKED UP I WOULD HAVE FUCKING LEFT YOUR LOSER ASS YEARS AGO! I MEAN PEZ? PEZ!!! WHAT FUCKING GROWN MAN IN ANY RIGHT FRAME OF MIND COLLECTS PEZ DISPENSERS? I’LL TELL YOU WHERE THEY ARE; I FUCKING BURNED THEM AND THEN PISSED ON THE ASHES! AFTER THAT I WENT AND FUCKED FOUR TEENAGERS AT ONCE BECAUSE YOU HAD NOT TOUCHED ME SINCE THE NIGHT I GOT DRUNK AND SLIPPED YOUR LIMP, PREMATURE EJACULATING LITTLE PRICK INSIDE ME SO YOU COULD MAYBE ENJOY SOMETHING ELSE COMING OUT OF A SLOT THAT WAS NOT SUGAR COATED! Stunned, Jimmy dropped the knife to the floor and began backpedaling from the verbal assault of many years of pent up rage that his ex-wife seemed to have built up inside her. He turned and staggered towards the door, unaware that she had quickly used the knife that had lodged itself into her hardwood kitchen floor to free her legs and then hands from the duct tape bindings. Without a second thought she pulled the knife free and ran after Jimmy, grabbing him by his thinning hair and pulling his head back before pulling the knife across his throat. An angry, deep red gash bisected his neck and an arterial spray of crimson blood sprayed the walls of the living room. Jimmy had but a few seconds to gasp out two or three feeble attempts at drawing air before he collapsed on the floor. As his life began to flash before his eyes, he was assailed with a myriad of images of his lost children in their assorted colors and flavors passing before his mind’s eye. The last thing he heard before everything went totally black was her voice screaming: “YOU LOVED THEM SO MUCH, I MADE YOU INTO A FUCKING LIFE SIZED PEZ DISPENSER YOU SICK BASTARD! HAPPY NOW?” and then she walked off to call the police to report an intruder. When they arrived she told the harrowing (and mostly true) ordeal that had befallen her over the past few hours, leaving out the part where she fucked the teens and had stolen and burned the collection that ended her marriage of 17 years. The police decided that she had suffered enough and no charges were filed in the case. Jimmy’s body was turned over to the state and buried in a Potter’s field as no one came forward to claim it. Maybe it was better that way…
BIO: Hailing from the small college town of Newark, Delaware, Edward A. Taylor splits his time between writing and raising his two shoggoths with his thankfully understanding and patient wife Kelley. He has appeared in Morpheus Tales #’s 21-22-23 – The Were-Traveler #11 & 12, and Rivets and Rain – A Steampunk Anthology. Tales of his exploits and other stories can be found on his blog: http://mylongroadoutofhell.blogspot.com.
Posted on May 3, 2014, in Issue 13: Southern Fried Freak Show and tagged bizarro, e-zine, Freak Show, freakpunk, horror, monsters, short stories, The Were-Traveler. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.