TOF: The Truth About Fiction #6
Michael D Friedman
mdfriedman at gmail.com
Tue Jun 9 07:07:45 PDT 2015
TALES OF FICTION presents...
THE TRUTH ABOUT FICTION
ISSUE #6: "The Mansion or the Shanty"
Written by Michael D Friedman
PREVIOUSLY: On his way to Fiction, Nevada, journalist Austin Allen has managed to meet an ex-NBA star on a vision quest, a beautiful waitress with an odd name and two crazy guys who were ready to worship him (until they ran into a buffalo).
After a 2-hour delay on Route 721, Jamal and I finally make it into the town of Fiction. I would figure out later that the reason for the delay was the death of Mark "Joe" Napoli and Carl "Joe" McIntosh, the two weird bald guys I met at Peliculas's diner. "Spontaneous buffalo emergeon" would eventually be labeled the cause of death. This would be the first of such instances, but not the last.
At any rate, exhausted from the delay and with much of the town closed down for the night, I offer to let Jamal (and his goldfish) stay with me at "The Shanty."
"The Shanty" is really the shack from which my grandfather broadcasted his radio shows. It's how he gained his immense following of "Josephists," the crazy followers of his "religion." When we finally arrive at the gate to the Allen estate, I'm amazed by the size of it. I had been to Grandpa Joe's mansion before, but in the years since, the grounds seemed to be more of a campus than a private residence. The main mansion still remained, but several other buildings must have "spontaneously emerged."
There was the R. Joseph Allen Library of the Unknown, the R. Joseph Allen Museum of the Unknown and the R. Joseph Allen Cafeteria of the Unknown.
As we pull up to the gate, a security guard -- a bald one in a track suit -- steps up and stops me.
"What business do you have--?" he stops with his mouth agape.
"I'm Austin Allen," I say after a short silence. "I'm here to stay at the Shanty."
I wait for a response, but the guard is still an unresponsive gaping mouthhole.
"I own the radio shack," I mention.
"Get this man an RC car or a Tandy computer, stat!" jokes Jamal.
Yeah, yeah, another Radio Shack joke. I get it. Very clever. I don't laugh. Neither does the guard, who's still staring at me.
I snap my fingers, "excuse me? Hello?"
The guard shakes his head, as if he was clearing out the dumbness. Forgive me... as Jamal said, I should be respectful of other cultures. He shakes his head, as if he was clearing out the stupidness. Better?
"Of course, sir," says the guard. "I know all about you. Mr. Malkowicz said you'd be coming."
Malkowicz? How did he know?
"The Austin Allen Broadcast Center has been prepped for your arrival," the guard continued.
I guess it's better than the Austin Allen Radio Shanty of the Unknown.
The guard hands me two lanyards with our names on them, "Here are your badges. You can use them to get in the gate, and into the Broadcast Center. There's one for you and Mr. Runningbear."
"Can we get one for the goldfish?" I try to joke.
But then it occurs to me and apparently Jamal too. He gives me a weird look, like he's caught me in some lie. I know what he's thinking... How did the guard know his name? Heck, how did he even know there'd be two of us? What's with all these guys named Joe?"
I shrug, because I'm asking the same questions. I look right back at him with the same weird look.
"The Broadcast Center is just down the road, to the right, away from the Mansion."
The guard lifts the gate with a manual crank.
"Thank you," I say to the guard, with an awkward smile.
"Don't go to the Mansion," the guard says ominously.
"Ooookay," interrupts Jamal, "this is all just a little... what's the word? Sketchy. Yeah, sketchy."
"What's in the Mansion?" I ask.
"Yeah, what's in the Mansion?" agrees Jamal, nervously.
"Nothing," says Guard-Joe.
He smiles an ominous smile.
"Can I just get a hotel?" asks Jamal.
"No," I say and step on the gas. I head down the road and make a left. Toward the Mansion.
Meanwhile, Peliculas, my waitress crush, was busy answering questions from two government officials, Agents Douglas and James.
"Peliculas, huh?" says Douglas. "That's a weird name."
"So is Douglas, for a lady," replies Peliculas.
I guess I should note that the two agents were women. Jessica Douglas and Denise James, to be precise. They were both dressed in black suits with black fedoras. They claimed to be with the Dept of Homeland Security, but Peliculas knew better. She'd lived near Fiction long enough to know these two were part of "The Group."
"The Group" always seemed to turn up whenever something weird happened. And something weird happened a lot in this area. You know, imploding buffaloes and all that...
But "The Group" never seemed to actually investigate the weird instance. Instead, it seemed like it was their job to harass anybody in the general area, until they were so annoyed they forgot about the incident in the first place.
"Do you have a green card, Peli-coo-lass?" asked James.
"I was born here," says Peliculas, dismissively. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have customers."
Peliculas motions to the old man sitting at the counter, the same one that was present when Jamal and I were there.
"Old man Franklin?" Douglas laughs. "He need a 38th cup of coffee?"
"He happens to be my best paying customer."
Franklin coughs. A lot. Seems like he's going to choke and die on the spot. But then he stops, and takes a sip of coffee.
"What do you know about Austin Allen?" says James.
"Don't know him."
"He was here about 2 hours ago," says Douglas. "Why are you protecting him?"
"Protecting him from what?"
"The dead Joes," Douglas yells out, before regaining her composure. "We know he did it."
That was Jamal's response when we pulled up to the Mansion.
"What is it?" I ask, not looking at him. Instead, I was staring at my grandfather's mansion, the lights darkened. There seemed to be movement at the windows, but I couldn't make it out.
"Whaaaaaaaa?" repeats Jamal.
"Shhh," I say, turning off the engine. "I'm trying to listen."
"I think we should GO," Jamal finally verbalizes himself.
"Don't be a pussy."
I feel a tug at my arm.
"I think we should GO," Jamal repeats in a loud whisper.
"What is wrong with you?" I finally respond,, exasperated. As I turn to berate my rather large friend, I believe I see my dead father out of the corner of my eye. It couldn't be? Could it?
Doesn't matter. What I see when I look at Jamal does.
Jamal's goldfish is floating in mid-air about a foot above his fishbowl. He's glowing a neon-green color and he's staring right at me.
"Don't go to the Mansion," says the goldfish.
And with that, Jamal faints.
(c) 2015 Michael D Friedman.
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