Monday, February 22, 2021

INSIDE THE BLUE CUBE - NOW MY BRAIN NEEDS A VACATION!

 


I know I usually write humor on this blog, but just for this week, I am straying from the norm. 

For the past month I've been working on something I felt weirdly inspired to do - write a science-fiction mystery novel. When I started, I had no idea where I was going with it, but as I kept writing, an avalanche of thoughts and crazy ideas began to fill my head. So by the time I reached the final two chapters, I had so many loose ends to tie up, my brain felt as if it had just run the Boston marathon!

But I made it to the finish line.

Anyway, because you are my dedicated readers, I thought I would share the first chapter with you - an exclusive - (don't you feel honored? 😉) which will tell you where I got the inspiration to write it - a NH event that took place 60 years ago. I set my novel in 2011, however, the 50th anniversary, not only because I thought it would be more significant, but because Covid didn't exist back then! 

Hope you enjoy it!  With luck, the book should be published by March 1st...come what may. At least it kept me out of trouble while I was working on it!




INSIDE THE BLUE CUBE

 Ó Copyright 2021  Sally A. Breslin

This book is a work of fiction. Although some of the locations and celebrities mentioned actually do exist, they are used in a purely fictitious manner for purposes of this work. All other characters are fictional. Any names or characteristics similar to those of any person, past or present, are purely coincidental.

 

CHAPTER ONE 

New Hampshire – 2011



    Lyla Wilder awoke inside a metal cube.
    Actually, it was more like a 10-by-10 metal room. There were no windows, no doors, no seams at the corners, no overhead lights…just shiny metal on the walls, ceiling and floor…and all of it glowed a pale blue.
    She sat up, shook her head in an attempt to clear it, and rubbed her temples.
    Where the heck am I and how did I get here? And why does my head feel the way it usually feels after a keg party?
    She stood, testing her legs. They felt weak, even a bit shaky, but they still worked. She noticed her feet were bare and her clothing – a long, fitted black gown with what looked like a fluff of ostrich feathers at each wrist – wasn’t anything she’d ever seen in her closet before.
    A bit too “Morticia Addams” to suit my tastes, but hey, at least I’m not naked.
    The thought did cross her mind that someone had put her into the dress and thus, obviously had seen her naked, especially since she could feel nothing but her skin separating her from the dress.
    The metal room was empty, completely void of any sort of bed, furniture, blankets, decorations…nothing but a cube of metal. Lyla took a deep breath and inched her way toward one of the glowing blue walls, then extended her index finger to touch it. The moment the tip of her fingernail made contact, a pain shot through it all the way up her arm and across her chest, causing her to jump back. Her heart felt as if it were beating 400 times per minute and imitating the rhythm of the performers’ feet in Riverdance. She feared she might black out.
    Gasping for breath, she clasped her hand over her chest and lowered herself back onto the floor, where she stretched out on her back and closed her eyes.
    Stay calm and try to remember what happened before you ended up here! Don’t panic…at least not yet. There has to be a logical explanation.
    “There has to be,” she whispered.
    Her mind struggled to clear itself as her heart struggled to return to its normal rhythm. As both slowly began to succeed, she was able to recall some of the details about where she had been prior to waking up in this chunk of metal.
    She had attended the annual gathering to commemorate what she considered to be one of the biggest news events in the history of New Hampshire, her home state…the alien abduction of Betty and Barney Hill.
    Lyla always had been a big science-fiction fan. She was so obsessed with Star Wars, she’d seen the original trilogy at least a hundred times and could recite nearly every line of dialogue by heart. But her favorite sci-fi films were the old “B” movies from the 1950s and ‘60s, back when technology was so limited, metal pie plates hanging from strings were used to emulate flying saucers. Nothing, she thought, involved more creativity or ingenuity than those old movies.
    So when her grandmother first told her the story about how Betty and Barney Hill had been abducted on a lonely highway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire late one evening back in 1961, Lyla was intrigued…very intrigued. She researched and mentally devoured everything about the incident she could find. She even made several trips north to the area in Lincoln where the abduction allegedly had taken place.
    Over the years, she managed to amass and fill two scrapbooks with copies of newspaper clippings and photos about the Hills, including several of her own photographs of the historical marker the state recently had erected near the abduction site to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event.
    And she faithfully had attended, with her now ex-boyfriend, Kyle, the last three annual “abduction” gatherings, sponsored by an area science-fiction fans group.
    Even though attending the event always had been her and Kyle’s thing, they had split five months prior to this year’s party. As a result, Lyla had been forced to suffer through countless days of asking herself, “Should I still go without him?” before she finally decided she would…but only because last night’s event was the special 50th anniversary party. It also was significant because it was held on September 19th, the exact date of the abduction. And that was important to her.
    At least I think last night was September 19th. I have no clue how long I’ve been stuck inside this metal prison.
    The party was held in a banquet hall at a hotel in the mountains, about a 90-minute drive from Lyla’s house. There were approximately 150 people at the gathering, which, when compared with the past parties, was a good-sized crowd. The hall was decorated with cutouts of flying saucers and cardboard stand-ups of aliens, along with maps of the double-star system of Zeta Reticuli, from where the aliens, according to the Hills’ testimony, reportedly had hailed. And of course, large posters of the departed guests of honor, Betty and Barney, were visible everywhere throughout the venue. Flashing lights in glowing neon greens and blues had been draped across the ceiling and walls, illuminating a long buffet-table that featured an assortment of sci-fi themed foods such as meatballs in the shape of humanoid heads with whole almonds for eyes, and for dessert, cookies decorated with silver icing to resemble UFOs.
    The highlight of the event every year always took place at 10:30 PM, the time at which the Hills reportedly had been abducted. Lyla recalled that at that precise moment last night, the lights at the party had flashed off and on in a strobe-like pattern as the guests gathered to toast the Hills with a glass of “alien elixir” (typically something green like crème de menthe mixed with ginger ale) in honor of them being the first people in the USA who’d been courageous enough to report an alien abduction to the authorities and then stick with their story…even through hypnosis, numerous interrogations and investigations…and endless ridicule.
    After that, Lyla remembered nothing.
    She didn’t recall anyone at the gathering who’d stood out or acted in a mysterious or weird way that would have made her think “red flag.” She also hadn’t flirted with any of the men there or made them think she’d like to connect with them after the party.
    Or allow them do something kinky like lock me in a metal cube!
    She wondered if the elixir might have had something to do with it, seeing she couldn’t recall anything past the toast. She also wondered if other people at the party had met with the same fate as she had and were being held here in their own separate metal cubes, awaiting whatever was in store for them. Or maybe, she thought, all of this was just some elaborate hoax to make the party seem more exciting and intriguing this year.
    Darkness suddenly engulfed the cube. The pale blue glow was replaced with a depth of darkness so thick and black, Lyla felt as if she’d been plunged into a vat of tar. She sat up and cocked her head, struggling to detect any sounds.
    She heard metal sliding against metal, like that of a door slowly being slid open, yet no light entered.
    Door? There are no doors in this thing, are there? But then, I suppose there has to be at least one somewhere, otherwise, how did I get in here?
    She then heard a footstep, followed by another, approaching her. When she felt a hand clasp around her upper arm, she jumped, and so did her heart, once again resuming its Riverdance beat. Through the thin material of her dress, long, bony fingers, colder than ice, dug into her, yanking her to her feet.
    “Who are you?” Lyla snapped, struggling to keep her balance in the complete darkness. “Where am I and why am I here?”
    A soft, calm voice that sounded neither male nor female answered, “He wishes to speak with you.”
   “He? Who is he?”
   “You will see.”


#   #   #


Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor,” “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation” and “Christmas, a Cabin and a Stranger.”  Contact her at: sillysally@att.net




CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FREE ON SMASHWORDS.COM





Tuesday, February 16, 2021

MYSTERY SHOPPING AT THE BOWLING ALLEY FROM HELL


One of the things I have missed during this pandemic is going candlepin bowling. Before all of this madness began, I used to go bowling at least once a month (that’s when I was able to convince my friends that their backaches afterwards would last only "a few hours").

There was a time, however, when I actually got paid to go bowling. It might sound like a fun job, but the only way I can describe it is…scary, very scary.

At the time, back in the late 1980s, I was working for a mystery-shopping firm, where I received weekly assignments to shop at different locations throughout New England and then write up reports about my impressions of the employees, the establishment’s cleanliness and signage, and much more. As a result, I visited a lot of banks, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and malls throughout four states.

So when I was assigned to mystery shop a bowling alley in Massachusetts on a Saturday night, I thought it would be a refreshing change from questioning bank employees about money-market accounts or home-improvement loans.

The owner of the bowling alley was from another state and owned several businesses, so he said he needed “fresh eyes” to observe the operation of the bowling alley because he rarely was able to visit Massachusetts in person. 

Well, my instructions said I had to bring another person with me, so my first choice, of course, was my husband.

“It’s a free evening of fun!” I told him, my tone overly enthusiastic. "All we have to do is bowl a string each, eat at the snack bar and then have a drink in the lounge – all paid for. It will be like a free date night for us!”

“Yeah, but we’ll have to drive 80 miles one way just to get there,” he said, looking less than convinced, even at the prospect of getting free cheeseburgers, his favorite food.

“I also get paid for mileage, plus an hourly rate," I said. "You can't beat that."


Upon arriving at the bowling alley in a rundown section of town, my husband and I honestly were afraid to get out of the car. Sprawled across the littered front steps leading into the building were several leather-clad, boom-box blasting teens, who not only looked like extras from a documentary on gang wars, their bodies had so many piercings, I wondered how they could take a drink of water without springing leaks.

Even worse, they stared at us as if they were saying, “We dare you to set foot on our turf!”

When my husband and I finally entered the building, little did we know our evening would end up being like an episode straight out of the Twilight Zone. 

The first thing we noticed was the bowling alley’s security guard, in full uniform, seated at one of the tables. There was a young woman on his lap and they were passionately kissing. I was pretty sure I could have emptied the cash register at that point, and he wouldn’t have known the difference. 

My husband and I walked over to the counter to rent our bowling shoes. Back then, even though smoking still was allowed in public areas, we still were surprised to see the female employee (and I’m totally serious here) with a lit cigarette dangling from her lips as she used a can of aerosol spray to disinfect the shoes. I braced myself for the explosion.

We bowled our one required string, which took about an hour because the ball-return kept sticking. Our hands were so filthy afterwards, I decided it might be a good time to check out the restroom, which I’d been instructed to examine for cleanliness and upkeep.

That’s when I noticed the ladies’ room had no outer door on it and neither did any of the stalls inside. When I later asked an employee why there were no doors, he shrugged and said, “Vandals. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

I prayed that my bladder would have mercy on me for the rest of the night.

At least the sink was in working order, so I washed my hands and then my husband and I headed over to the snack bar. As we sat at the counter and waited to order, I reached into my purse and discreetly checked the notepad on which I’d jotted down some of the client’s list of questions. The first one made me giggle.

“What’s so funny?” my husband asked.

“The owner’s first question is, ‘What was your first impression upon entering this bowling alley? Did it appear to be family oriented?’”

My husband chuckled. “Yeah, for the Manson Family.”

At that moment, the server, a young blond woman, approached and asked what she could get for us. We ordered cheeseburgers.

“Sorry,” she said in a monotone. “It’s been a real busy night and I haven’t had time to scrape all of the crud off the grill yet. Can I get you something else that doesn’t need the grill?”

I was tempted to say, “Yeah, a stomach pump.”

We ordered cheese sandwiches, which had been pre-made, wrapped in plastic and stored in the soda cooler. The bread was so dry, it was curling on the edges.

Finally, we headed to the lounge, which was larger than we had anticipated. There was a circular bar in the center of the room with tables surrounding it. There even was a small dance area.

We entered just as the female bartender was having a heated argument with one of the patrons, who was seated at the bar.

“I don’t have to put up with this sh*t!” she finally shouted, removing her apron and flinging onto the bar. “I quit!”  Spewing a stream of obscenities, she stormed out.

We sat and waited 25 minutes for another employee to come in and take over (after all, I had a report to complete), but the bar remained unattended. By then, many of the other customers were getting impatient…and thirsty.  All it took was for one of them to finally get up and help himself to a drink, and the free-for-all began. One customer even stood at the beer tap and filled one mug after another, handing them out to anyone who wanted one.

My husband and I never were so glad to get out of a place.

When I filed my report on Monday, the owner of the bowling alley refused to believe me.  But after he personally checked into everything I’d written (in his attempt to disprove my report), he realized I was telling the truth. As a result, I was sent to mystery shop that same bowling alley at least a dozen more times. My husband and I became “regulars” (even though we had no body piercings).

Did things vastly improve with each of our visits? 

Only slightly.

They did hire another bartender and also a new security guard, and the grill was cleaned, so we finally were able to try the cheeseburgers.

Believe me, the dried-up cheese sandwiches were a lot better.


#   #   #

Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor,” “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation” and “Christmas, a Cabin and a Stranger.”  Contact her at: sillysally@att.net.

 

 


  CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FREE ON AMAZON.COM

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FREE ON SMASHWORDS.COM




A Sci-Fi Romantic Novella


CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM AMAZON.COM

CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM SMASHWORDS.COM

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

AT MY AGE, BURSTS OF ENERGY CAN BE DANGEROUS

 


I’ve come to the conclusion that when you get to be my age, bursts of energy aren’t a good thing.

Take this Monday, for example. I went to bed at 3 AM and woke up at 7:30 AM.  I was going to roll over and go back to sleep, but that's when I remembered it was trash pick-up day.

I am in the habit of waiting until both my recycling container and my trash container are so full before I drag them the 450 feet down my driveway, they are all but guaranteed to cause an injury to one of my essential body parts. That’s because the containers that are provided to the residents by a company called Casella are so large, two full-sized men could climb into just one of them. So the less often I have to deal with those clunkers, the better I like it (but if I ever need a place to hide a couple dead bodies, I’ll be all set).

By the time I dragged the containers down my insanely long, snow-covered driveway, their wheels had collected so much snow, I felt as if I were trying to drag two Sherman tanks. That was when I came to an unexpected obstacle preventing me from getting the containers to their destination. There was a snow bank across the entire width of my driveway where the town had plowed. So I walked back to the garage, grabbed the shovel and set to work clearing the snow bank. Then I put the trash containers out on the edge of the road.

I’d heard on the local weather report that it was going to snow again on Tuesday, so I thought maybe, seeing I already was up and about and feeling energized, I should go shopping and stock up on groceries so I could hibernate the rest of the week.

As I was walking back toward the house, I heard my feathered friends, my “regulars,” squawking and chirping to be fed.  The problem was, the snowstorm had covered the area where I usually feed them.  So I shoveled a path out to the bird feeder and then cleared an area on the ground so I could throw down some birdseed for my ground feeders, like the three ravens that show up every day…Edgar, Allan and Poe. And while I was out there, I also shoveled off the back deck for the dogs.

Then I came inside, freshened up and headed to Concord to do some shopping. I hit Job Lot first, for their sale on dog treats and birdseed. From there I went to Target for their sale on Poland Spring bottled water, where I picked up 12 gallons (because the water in my well still is loaded with enough arsenic to kill Moby Dick). Of course, the bottled water was located at the farthest end of the store, and I had to push that heavy cart the whole distance back to the register, then out to the car, where I unloaded all 12 gallons into the back seat. Seeing that a gallon of water weighs over eight pounds, it felt like the equivalent of a workout at the gym. I hadn’t even realized I was grunting like an old sow until I noticed other people in the parking lot staring at me.

From there, I headed to Walmart for food, where I bought as much of everything as I could afford so I wouldn’t have to go shopping again for as long as humanly possible. This included, among other things, a 16-lb. bag of dry dog-food, 10 lbs. of flour, 10 lbs. of sugar, three gallons of juice, two 10-lb. bags of potatoes, and a lot of other super heavy items guaranteed to give me multiple hernias while pushing them up and down the aisles and then halfway across the parking lot to my car.

It took me about 145 trips from the car into my house to unload everything – just the 12 bottles of water took me four trips, and another trip alone just for the 16-lb. bag of dog food.

After I put everything away, I decided maybe I should do a couple loads of laundry. While the clothes were washing, I got a craving for homemade sugar cookies, so I baked two dozen, then washed the dishes right away.

That’s when I remembered I had to walk back out to the road and take the trash containers back into the garage, so I did that…in the dark.

When I came back into the house, the dogs greeted me with their toys, wanting to play fetch. So I spent the next half-hour tossing their toys for them.  Then I made a pot of soup from scratch and put it on the stove to simmer.

I finally sat down, put my feet up and proceeded to get a bunch of Charley horses in my calves. I vigorously rubbed them until they let up, and then I promptly dozed off. The smoke detector nearest to the kitchen woke me up later because all of the liquid in my soup had boiled out. The house still smells like “Eau de Burnt Potatoes.”

When everything in my body began to spasm later that night, I soaked in a hot bath and once again fell asleep. The “thunk” of the back of my head hitting the wall behind the tub woke me up.

Today, I’m unable to turn my head to the right or lift my arms any higher than my waist because of all of the shoveling, lifting and dragging I did on Monday.

So I’ve decided that the next time I wake up feeling full of energy, I’m going to chalk it up to temporary insanity, roll over and go back to sleep.

My body will thank me for it.    

         


 

 #   #   #



DOWNLOAD FREE AT AMAZON.COM

DOWNLOAD FREE AT SMASHWORDS.COM





CLICK HERE TO ORDER AT AMAZON.COM

CLICK HERE TO ORDER AT SMASHWORDS.COM

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

NO HOME IS COMPLETE WITHOUT TINY NUDISTS

 

          

I was down in the basement putting away the Christmas decorations the other day (finally) and happened to find a box that contained some model-train items that belonged to my late husband.

Ever since the first year we were married, he’d had this fantasy to one day own a house with a great big basement so he could build a miniature city, “Breslinville,” down there and have at least a dozen model trains clickety-clacking through it. 

At the time, however, we were living in 12’x60’ mobile home, but that didn’t bother him.  He decided to go ahead and buy all of the trains and accessories he’d need to build “Breslinville” anyway.

“That way, when we get a house in the future,” he said, “I’ll already have everything ready so I can set up my model-train city.”

Thus began years of going to model-train shows, model-train stores and flea markets from Maine to New Jersey…any place where there were people who were selling model-train stuff.  Home computers, cell phones and online shopping were unheard of back then. There was no GPS either, so I became the navigator during our model-train collecting excursions.

This, of course, explains why we ended up getting lost so often.

For example, I’ll never forget the first time we headed to a train store in Methuen, Massachusetts.  Once we found Methuen, we rode up and down street after street for over 20 minutes until finally, completely by accident, we came upon a sign that said Lowell Street, which was where the train store was supposed to be located.

When we found the block that had the street number we were looking for, we were puzzled.  Not only was there no train store, the guys who were hanging around on the corner definitely did not look like model-train enthusiasts.

“I don’t understand it,” my husband said, shaking his head. “The store should be right here.  I even called the guy to ask what hours he was open.  How on earth could he have just disappeared overnight?”

I eyed the gang of guys on the corner, one of whom had a dagger with blood on it tattooed on his arm, and said, “I can think of a few ways someone might suddenly disappear around here.”

My husband, desperate to find the train store, yet never the type who'd ever stop to ask anyone for directions, even if he were having a heart attack and searching for a hospital, decided to drive up and down the street one more time, despite the fact it would throw him off his carefully planned schedule to visit three more train stores in Massachusetts that day.

 As we drove past the city’s post office for the fifth time in an hour, something finally compelled me to actually read the name on the front of it.  “We’re not in Methuen!” I cried. “We’re in Lawrence!  We must have overshot Methuen!”

So we backtracked to Methuen and, after figuring out how to detour around a bridge that was closed for repairs, finally found the train shop.  The minute my husband set foot inside, he was like a kid in a candy shop.   

“Ooh!” he gasped, grabbing a small plastic case. “Look at this!  It’s a whole group of tiny naked people!  I’m going to buy it!” 

I just stared at him. “What on earth are you going to do with tiny naked people?”

“My city is going to have a nudist colony!” Before I could comment, he rushed over to another section of the store and grabbed a box of miniature German police officers and a Wisconsin State Police car. “I want these, too!" 

I frowned. “Your city is going to have German police officers riding around in a Wisconsin police cruiser?”

Tiny figures for train layout

He nodded. “I like their uniforms, and this cruiser is much sharper looking than the others.”

In a flash, he was off again, this time searching frantically through a display of miniature animals. “I need a buffalo and a cowboy,” he said. “Oh!  And some giraffes!”

I didn’t bother to ask.  Breslinville, I concluded, was destined to be a very weird place.

As I watched my husband carrying an armload of stuff up to the checkout counter, I couldn’t help but think back to the night before when I’d told him I wanted to buy our rottweiler a studded leather collar I’d seen in a pet shop. “It’s only $19.95, and it would look great on Sabre! It’ll make her look really tough,” I said.

“What a waste of money,” he’d muttered. “The dog doesn’t need a new collar, especially for $20!”

His total at the train store came to $169.

Over the years, he amassed so many trains, miniature buildings, scenes, vehicles and more, he had to rent two storage units to keep all of it in. Everything remained unopened and neatly stacked, awaiting the day when Breslinville finally would be constructed.

One Sunday, an event my husband eagerly had been anticipating for months, came to the Everett Arena in Concord: a huge train-collectors’ show.  We arrived bright and early, and visited every (and I DO mean every) table and exhibit. My husband, however, was disappointed.  His favorite manufacturer of mini figures and vehicles, Preiser, was conspicuously scarce at the show.  The only item he ended up buying was the new Walther’s train catalog, which was the official bible of train collectors.

He tried to make himself feel better during the drive home. “Well, at least I got a good deal on the catalog,” he said. “I mean, it usually costs $22 and I got it for only $17.95, so the trip wasn’t a total waste.”

Sympathetic soul that I was, I couldn’t resist pointing out, “Yeah, but we had to pay $6 admission each just to get into the show.”

Sabre really looked great in her new $19.95 collar.


#   #   #


Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor,” “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation” and “Christmas, a Cabin and a Stranger.”  Contact her at: sillysally@att.net.

 

 

           

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FREE AT SMASHWORDS.COM

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FREE AT AMAZON.COM