15 May Dumpster RabbittZ – Part One
Dumpster RabbittZ – Part One
Bryan Higby and Ricky D. Snyder
The CarLowDen Golf Course sat back in the trees somewhere between Jericho’s Junkyard and Chesterton’s Cemetery. Around these parts we call the cemetery a boneyard. There was a huge real-estate sign dug into the rutty green lawn advertising the land could be bought for a song. Looking at that old potter’s field one would never have guessed that presidents had played on those sprawling, once perfectly manicured lawns. Truman, Eisenhower, even tricky Dick had sunk their balls into the few dozen holes of the old forgotten CarLowDen Golf Course in better days. Some say these same presidents had also sunk their balls at the local gentlemen’s club, The Blue Mansion, which coincidentally is still in full swing.
I only mention this forgotten patch of land buried in the trees of CarLowDen because this story I’d like to relay, and the horror that followed, started right here with that dumpster parked on the grounds. You see it? It’s the one that’s sitting next to that ugly real-estate sign, the dumpster that until just recently hadn’t been there at all. Green, rusted with scars from who knows where, that dumpster stood sentient watching, listening, taking in its new home. Where it came from… well, we’ll get to that directly. Oh, my name’s John Friend by the way. I’m no particular storyteller. Never had that gene, just a sec… um, those cigarettes are like heaven to the senses. American Spirit my favorite. Where was I? Oh, yeah, the dumpster.
See back in the day before this town was plagued by those creepy crawlies, that I’ll soon tell you about, I was a regular Joe. I had worked for the CarLowDen Golf course, kind of as an apprentice greens keeper. Back then I worked with old Ken Kennedy, the fella looked just like that old-timer Kevin McCarthy. You remember that actor from the black and white flick Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Yeah, me and my bud, Randy —we’ll get to Randy in a second —liked to stay up late watching the horror public access station out of Pittsburgh. We’d down a case of beers and giggle at the rubber monster suits that filled the picture frames of those old films. That station out of Pittsburgh was where we saw Kevin McCarthy for the first time. Screaming about giant sea pods, aliens from another world taking over our little blue globe, and hell McCarthy wasn’t half wrong about that. It was Randy who said old Ken Kennedy, the CarLowDen grounds supervisor, was the spitting image of that actor. But that’s neither here nor there. I mention old Ken for one reason and one reason only, because that poor soul was their first victim. Who are they, you might be asking yourself?
Look back at that dumpster, look real close. A shadow is stirring inside. Look out because that dumpster is rabid. Just watch… see it… there, those long mangy ears. The teeth, big buck teeth like a demented beaver, but worse. Those teeth look like something that went into a blender that may have been a beaver, or a rabbit and then got all mixed up and now… oh Christ! Now it’s crawling out of that rusted, dented dumpster. Its eyes, don’t look at its pinkish red eyes. The thing is long and slender, with drooping ears and long broken teeth and looks… well it looks like a rabid Easter bunny…
“And that was Flock of Seagulls with ‘I Ran’, which is just what your old DJ buddy Randy Bliss has to do now. The clock ticks midnight and Randy’s gotta skedaddle on out of here, but as always folks we here at WWAY Radio The CALM would like to remind all of you not to panic. Just, stay calm,” DJ Randy Bliss’s deep melodic voice rolled across the airwaves as he cut off the mic. Randy motioned to his sound engineer to kill the live feed as a radio promo kicked in.
He removed his headphones from his brown permanent. The small unbreakable black comb sitting on the dash of his sound studio whispered to him. Randy lifted the comb and ran a few strokes through his thick 80’s style mustache. That was his thing, the 1980’s. WWAY The CALM was a radio station stuck in that retro era. Randy didn’t care, he liked the thick permanent that he wore with the colorful baggy era clothes. His thick mustache always received compliments on the street when the chicks saw him. Yeah, he loved the 80’s.
“You going home?” His sound engineer, Brad, asked as he entered Randy’s musical domain.
Randy leaned back lighting a cigarette, American Spirit, his favorite.
“Might stop down to Marty’s for a night cap. You?”
“Yeah Marty’s is the only decent joint in the whole town, but nah, gotta get home and kiss the wife. Maybe get a little nuggy before I hit the hay,” Brad laughed like a fool.
Randy smiled, but Brad seemed to notice the irritation on his DJ’s face. Old Randy had been divorced twice.
“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow. Night,” Brad said placing a stack of CD’s on the dashboard and exiting the studio.
Randy watched the engineer exit his studio switching off the lights as he disappeared into the darkness of the hallway beyond the glass studio space. The DJ dragged off his cigarette for another couple of minutes in silence before snuffing it out. Randy rose on almost numb legs. He had been sitting at the mic all night. Yawning, he had a full bladder to attend to and then he would brave the freezing late March temperature and drive home to his small place on Ramsey Street, after a stop at Marty’s Pub. He never relished the idea of going home alone. It was damned quiet and lonely on Ramsey Street. It wasn’t as bad since February was in his rear view. Valentine’s Day had come and gone and bunny thumping Easter was on the horizon.
As Randy walked through the deserted WWAY studio he saw many of the employees had tacked up Easter decorations in their office spaces. Cubicles were cluttered with chickens and bunny decor. A large bowl of Easter candy cascading with jelly beans sat on the station’s front counter. Randy snatched up a handful of the sweet beans as he walked to the men’s room.
The jon was practically spotless. Tony, their cleaning guy, did a stellar job around the joint, keeping them up to their eyeballs in toilet paper and Lysol spray. Randy figured that he’d need that Lysol now because that full bladder seemed to have sunken into his shitter. What was that joke about getting older? A guy says, ‘You know you’re getting old when you hold a piss so long that it turns into a shit.’
Randy grinned as he walked to the furthest stall from the door holding the Lysol can in one hand and several jelly beans in the other. He dropped the beans into his pocket for later. Randy would also be dropping some aged old poop into the shitter tonight and thank Tony for the Lysol.
* * *
Across town in CarLowDen’s most respectable watering hole, Marty’s Pub, I was washing away my blues. My trusty Mead notebook on the bar was getting drowned by my booze. Didn’t matter since all the crap I wrote was garbage anyway. For those of you reading this, in case you’re keeping score this is John Friend. You may remember me from the prologue of this here story. You might also remember I mentioned I’m not much of a writer, but I sure am a quality drinker.
“Norm, another shot please,” I told the barman.
Norm was a big burly fella with a heart of gold. He was also the only barman around town who would take me on credit. Since the CarLowDen Golf Course shut down a few years ago because of that housing crash I’ve been out of work. Occasionally I’ll sell a short story to the men’s mags like Dude, or Swank, but mostly I collect rejection slips along with my unemployment check, which is getting scarcer and scarcer. Like I said, I’m not much of a writer and CarLowDen isn’t shit for employment, but it’s the home I know.
“You got the green to pay for this Johnny boy? Bonnie’s been riding my rear letting people off on their tabs,” Norm asked leaning across the bar staring into my bloodshot eyes. Norm would be intimidating if he wasn’t such a teddy bear.
“It’s on me,” a voice called from the front door.
All eyes turned to see the 1980’s fashioned local celeb and my good buddy, DJ Randy Bliss. Boy did it feel like bliss seeing his friendly familiar face grace this dive. Randy walked down the short steps to the main pub room floor and made his leisurely way to the bar where I was seated inches away from Norm’s thick beard. I saw how the barman was grinning. He loved Randy too.
“Well if it isn’t this town’s usual winos sitting front and center,” Randy said, gripping my shoulders friendly-like. He glanced down the bar at three old regulars, Bill, Dave, and Ted, who were already sleeping on the wooden counter.
“Yeah, yeah okay. I drink and you pay. My Easter Angel,” I chuckled between shots.
Randy dropped down on the red stool next to me and tapped the counter.
“Beer barman,” Randy said.
“Barman,” Norm laughed, shaking his head. As if the WWAY DJ had never come into this joint before.
Snatching a bowl of peanuts, Randy started gobbling them down.
“Hey, Normy you got any burgers back there? This cat is scratching.”
Randy rubbed his skinny stomach, pulling the small bowl of peanuts closer.
“Sorry Ran, but kitchen’s closed after ten,” Norm said, blushing.
Randy hesitated with a peanut nearly to his lips. He exchanged a surprised look with me and Norm.
“Since Bonnie put the kibosh on drunks ordering and not paying for their meals once they’ve been cooked.” Norm looked over at Bill, Dave, and Ted all snoring at the end of the bar. He shrugged. “Besides, she’s been losing at the track.”
Norman dropped his bar rag on the counter and rubbed at a spot that was already spotless. Randy hunched back on his stool irritated, but he never stayed mad for too long.
“Oh, what the heck. Maybe it’ll keep these bums from hanging out all night, eh,” Randy laughed pointing to the three drunks sleeping at the end of the bar.
“Oughta charge them rent,” I said about to laugh when we heard the police sirens speed past the front of the bar and we all jumped.
First one cruiser sped past then two, three, and four more. We all three stared at one another shocked. In a small town like CarLowDen after midnight was usually quiet as a tomb. Norm ran to the police scanner that he kept behind the bar. A few of the drunks at the bar lifted their heads at the sound of the sirens and then dropped back down snoring. Looking at those drunks I could see Randy’s irritated expression again.
Norm took a second to tune in the local police scanner. He was checking the channels when we heard a blast of excited chatter coming across the line.
“Be advised we have a definite 10-91L possibly a 187… ” a frantic voice called across the C.B. system from cruiser to cruiser.
“What’s a damned 10-91L… ” I shouted feeling my blood pumping. In a small town like CarLowDen speeding police cruisers downtown are not the norm.
“Yeah and a possible 187?” Randy asked, sipping off his beer smiling.
Randy seemed a bit more chill than the rest of us and I had to wonder if he had burned one on the way over from the WWAY station.
Norm was riffling through the police code binder he kept by the bar. Old Norm moonlights as a volunteer firefighter when they need a mountain to break down a door. The barman is a giant.
“What we got there Normy?” Randy asked downing his beer and burping to himself.
“10-91L is an animal attack,” Norm said.
He had placed on a pair of glasses to read the small print in his binder. He looked almost scholarly.
“What’s the 187?” I asked getting into the fun of this.
Norm held up one meaty finger as he traced down the code list. He read the 187 code description to himself, removing his glasses and staring at us in awe. When Norm didn’t speak immediately Randy smiled at me and then leaned over the counter and turned the code binder around, found the 187 code and read out loud.
Murder? In CarLowDen, I thought.
“Holy shit,” I said aloud.
“All units, all units converge on the abandoned CarLowDen Golf Course,” the police dispatcher was saying. There were more codes spit out, but once I heard the location of the possible 187, or definite 10-19L, I was off the stool stumbling to the front door.
“John wait!” Randy shouted from behind me.
I wasn’t listening because I knew one thing and that was the only person living out at the abandoned golf course was my old boss and friend Ken Kennedy. That meant that if there was an animal attack, or god help us a murder, old Ken would have been the recipient of that horrible police call.
“Ran don’t let him drive,” Norm told Randy who was already sliding off his stool and dropping a few bills on the counter to cover both our beers.
We were outside heading to Randy’s suped up Black Knight two tone El Camino before I registered the icy air. I had left my corduroy jacket back in Marty’s. The alcohol rushing through my veins made the low twenties temperature feel like twenty below. I was shaking all over. Part of me wondered if it was the cold or my terror that Ken Kennedy had tripped off to that great golf course in the sky.
A few minutes later me and Randy were barreling down Route Twelve. I moved to button up the front of my corduroy jacket feeling the late March frost tugging at my flesh when I realized again that I had left my jacket back at Marty’s. I felt the goose flesh on my neck standing on end. Was that the frost or something else?
“Damn it Ran doesn’t this heap have a heater?”
“Careful there John. You could call Skeet’s Taxi service if you want heat. Not sure that they’d drive your ass all the way out to the CarLowDen Golf Course. What’s left of it. My baby takes a little time to warm up, don’t you babe,” Randy said rubbing the smooth brown dashboard.
I removed a pack of cigarettes, American Spirit, from the cargo pocket of my green camo fatigues.
“Give one here,” Randy said. I handed him a cigarette wincing at the fact that my pack was nearly empty. Three cancer sticks were left and I slid the pack back in my pocket wondering how I was going to afford a fresh pack.
Randy pressed in the dashboard lighter and switched on the radio. WWAY The CALM, local radio station of Randy Bliss was playing some 80’s trash music. I’m not a fan of 80’s fluff. My era was really the 1970’s, skip the 80’s and go right on to the early 90’s. That’s me, but I wasn’t thinking about the music on the radio, not really. I was wondering, praying that old Ken Kennedy wasn’t dead.
We sped through the pitch black of night. Ever spent any time in the North Country, upstate New York during winter? Well if you ever do you’ll understand what I mean when I say once you leave CarLowDen and venture onto Route Twelve, or any of the other half a dozen roads out of town you’ll be entering a blackness unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Without a moon glancing out the passenger window of the El Camino, which had finally started to warm up, it felt like Randy and me were rushing through the abyss. Except for the many boneyards with their stark skeletal pale tombstones jutting from the earth like cavity filled dentures there were a few trees that deviated from the blackness.
“I hate this place,” I whispered.
“What? Hate what?” Randy asked as the cigarette lighter popped.
I removed the lighter, torching both of our cigarettes before placing the glowing end back into the dashboard slot.
“I said I hate this place,” I shouted. “I hate CarLowDen like a fucking case of crabs.”
Randy dragged off his cigarette digesting this little bit of information. It was a true confession, really. I hadn’t told Randy this ever in the long time that we knew one another. I knew that Randy loved this town. He was from someplace like Chicago or Detroit as a kid, someplace urban and violent. He never talked much about his childhood. People around CarLowDen always said he looked like John Oates, you know from Hall and Oates? Randy Bliss had that outsider cool about him. Maybe that’s why he liked this town so much. A local radio celebrity that resembled an international musician. Me, well I was just John Friend, homegrown and ugly as sin. The best comparison I ever got was that geeky teenage version of Greg Brady from The Brady Bunch. And my name, John Friend, never even fit me since I was anything but friendly. To most people anyway.
“Can we get anything else on this radio, or what?”
Man, I was irritable that night. It couldn’t have been the drink since I was known as a relaxed drunk. So, it must have been my fear for old Ken Kennedy. Besides being my former boss, old Ken was a great guy. We’d spent plenty a night in his small shack on the defunct golf course drinking beers and watching baseball, or some horror flick. Good times were always had with Ken Kennedy.
The El Camino sped past the boneyards, the trees, the raped corn fields to the Whitaker Road that would then lead us to the CarLowDen Golf Course and old Ken Kennedy. I prayed that my friend was still alive.
* * *
We arrived too late. There were police cruisers, four of them, with their flashing red and blue lights. A television minivan was pulling into the long driveway. A reporter, Jeffrey Rice who worked for the DenMark Gazette —DenMark being a small city about twenty miles away, was gathering around the shack that served as old Ken Kennedy’s home. Ken’s place wasn’t much bigger than an outhouse, but it had cable television and Ken and me watched the ball games during game season.
I was out the door of the El Camino before Randy had it in park.
“John wait!” Randy was calling to me but I didn’t have time for his caution.
Besides being my former employer, Ken Kennedy was my friend. Pushing past the small group of television reporters and that guy Jeff Rice I saw the EMT’s pushing a body zipped up tight inside a bag atop a stretcher out of the shack. Police lights were set up around the shack. The cops were roping it off as a crime scene. They were shooing people back declaring something about how they needed a pristine crime scene to determine cause of death. As the stretcher rolled past Randy and me I didn’t need an investigation. I pushed one of the EMT’s aside and unzipped that body bag. What I saw then would give me nightmares until the day I died.
Old Ken Kennedy was half eaten. Big gouges of flesh were removed from his throat like some wild rabid animal had been at him.
“Oh… Ken,” I whispered, feeling light-headed seeing all the blood.
“John,” I heard Randy shout as my vision blurred.
“I’m okay, I’m okay,” I said pushing past Randy and walking slowly, methodically back to the El Camino where I vomited all over the side of Randy’s car.
“John,” Randy’s concerned voice shifted to anger.
“I need a drink,” I said, opening the puke covered door and sliding back into the car.
“You and me both,” Randy concluded as he slid back inside the El Camino. We watched in silence smoking cigarettes as the EMT’s loaded Ken’s corpse into the back of the ambulance.
“Got anything stronger?” I asked snuffing my cigarette, knowing that Randy Bliss smoked the ganga.
Without a word Randy slammed the button on the glove compartment. The door dropped open and he pulled out a bag of marijuana. Inside the bag were a couple of joints already rolled. He removed both and handed me one.
“Thanks,” I said shaking all over. I didn’t need to ask if it was the chilly weather this time. I was freaked fucking out man.
Randy pressed in the lighter again and we waited in silence some more. The cops knew their job. Old Ken’s shack was wrapped up tighter than a sardine can in less than an hour. The lead cop on the scene gave a brief statement to the television reporters. Jeff Rice wrote a few notes. I watched him carefully. I’m not much of a writer myself, but I’ve read Jeff Rice’s by-line a time and again. The DenMark Gazette can be found in any local convenience store around town, and though his stories always lent themselves to the more strange cult or supernatural edge I like them. He is a good writer. I saw something on Rice’s face, terror maybe, that convinced me he might know more about this killing than met the eye.
The lighter popped and Rice exited the crime scene. I forgot about the reporter for the time being. We lit our joints that later lit us.
“Come on let’s get out of here,” Randy said, cranking over the El Camino.
About Bryan Higby
Bryan Higby is the writer that Amazon bestselling author Joe Konrath said: “Bryan is easily one of the most prolific and enthusiastic authors I’ve ever run into. He writes with unabashed exuberance. If you missed the link above, I encourage you to check out some of his stuff here.” http://thelatlateshow.com/ (Podcast Link)
And New York Times bestselling author of the Wool Science Fiction saga, Hugh Howey said: “Hey Bryan, congrats on your success thus far. Sounds like you’re doing it right. Took me years to get where you are right now, so you’re on a good pace. And these covers rock. Congrats on those.”
New York Literary critic Robert Plyler compared Higby’s first novel, The Diary of a Logos, to the works of James Joyce, Franz Kafka, and Mickey Spillane.
Bryan also writes, directs, and co-produces the podcast The Lat Late Show with his longtime collaborator Rick Snyder. You can check out this fictional podcast here:
Higby lives with his wife and three kids in Central New York.
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Bryan-Higby/e/B00CWEFNVS
About Rick Snyder
Rick Snyder is the co-author of the critically acclaimed Gonzo Pulp Horror series The DenMark Chronicles. Snyder is also a filmmaker and musician. He is also the co-creator and producer with Higby for The Lat Late Show podcast and the DenMark Chronicles podcast. You can find their links here: