The House on Clark Boulevard

Clark 094
The actual Clark Boulevard

As House on Clark Boulevard is in editing at the moment, I’ll take that as a good sign from whatever dark gods control the universe. As the editor took sick, well, that’s par for the course. My hope barrels are full of sand and ticks and I should probably post something totally optimistic and up with people, but I just fucking can’t do it right now. Sorry.

But hey, the Oregon Ducks get to advance in the Great Basketball Tournament of Death, or whatever it’s actually called. March Madness. I know what’s it bleeping called. I already used up my one allotted cussword.  I’m still trying, desperately, to be a lady. Sigh. March Madness! Suddenly America goes nuts for b-ball. And ignores it the rest of the year. Unless you’re an actual basketball fan, of course.

Danger noodle, wah.

Okay. What was I blatherskiting about? Oh yes!! Upcoming book coming out. What’s it about, Ann? Let me tell you, gentle readers!

It’s about novel length and is not a short story. Ha ha. Ugh. Okay.

No, for reals and such.

Set in 1978, against the backdrop of Thanksgiving and Christmas, this is one young-ish housewife’s fight against the forces of darkness as well as wrestling with a family she’s not sure she likes, enjoys or even loves. Mr. Blue claims he can make all the ghosts and beasties that torment her on a nearly daily basis go away. The giggling ghost boys who play pranks on her, some times all night long. The rolling teethed beasties who sometimes try to push her down. Mr. Peepers, who lives in her daughter’s room. All she has to do is sacrifice her oldest child, Alice. Nancy balks as this, of course, because she’s supposed to be a good wife and a good mother, damn it! She’s also dealing with a toddler who hasn’t yet mastered where to poop or pee, a husband struggling with his own dreams, the newest girlfriend of her ladykiller brother and holiday turkeys that sometimes won’t cook fast enough. She’s got a lot of shit on her plate, man! Alice, by the way, can see the ghosts and beasties as well, and lets this slip at the most embarrassing moments, of course. Nancy decides maybe she can trap these annoyances, after a trip to the local library. But it’s Mr. Blue she starts to gun for as a showdown looms between a woman trying to play the role of good wife and mother to one and all around her and a possible demon come to make Nancy his personal pet project.

Frankly, I wanted to have some fun with the haunted house themes. Every movie I seeor book I read about people and ghosts has the people screaming and loosing control of their bowels. Or so it seems.

What if, I went, what if someone just found the haunters annoying and in the way and just another thing to deal with in a day filled with cleaning, cooking constantly and never-ending childcare duties? [And yes, this is totally about my mother, okay?? Okay.]

Nancy is hard-headed practical and pragmatic. She tackles what she can tackle. I rather like how she let me tell her story. She even showed up, at times, to steer me into how she wished her story told.

Not that, she’d say. No, that isn’t what happened. I remember Anne Rice talking about her creation, Lestat and how she had Lestat looking over her shoulder as she wrote about him. Nancy was in that same category.

I scrapped several versions of the scene where Nancy flees her own house. Until I happened upon the one that seemed right. Where Nancy calls on her brother, who won’t ask her questions and will drop whatever to come get her. Nancy wouldn’t go to outsiders for her problems or…well, you’ll see if that book ever does actually come out of editing limbo and gets put out on the market.

Here’s a bit of a blurb. A taste. A nibble. THE HOUSE OF CLARK BOULEVARD. Oh and the sequel is done, too. I know!! Alice in Oregonlandia. About, you guessed it, Nancy’s daughter dealing with her own life and the fallout of her mother’s battles with Mr. Blue. Are you excited, gentle sorts??

The following is how the book opens, with Nancy preparing her little house for Thanksgiving’s excesses. Well, you’ll see…

THANKSGIVING, 1978

The telephone hung in the air. Nancy ran the vacuum cleaner over the shabby green and gray carpet of the living room, ignoring that floating beige receiver held out to her to take. “Not today,” she said briskly. “I’m busy.”

The telephone bobbed in the air, she saw it do so from the corner of her eye as she resolutely went after every last bit of dirt and dust. Which did no good at all in this dusty afterthought of God’s country. Dust drifted up and drifted down, it did not good at all to actually expect it to stay away once a vacuum or rag had been after it. Something pressed against the back of her knees, hard, trying to knock her down. “No. Not today.” She repeated, using the vacuum to keep herself from falling. Another push against her legs. “No!” The see-through little girl peered at her from Nancy’s open bedroom door, in her flour sack dress, holding that severed doll’s head, her face bruised. Her eyes held sorrows, her hair held sticks and leaves and snarls. She disappeared, like hot fat in a frying pan.

Nancy heard the click of the telephone as it returned to the cradle. It rang. She let it, the roar of the Hoover as it sucked up filth a far more welcome sound than the reet reet of the phone. The walnut hutch held her good china, which she would use tomorrow. Her husband had anchored it to the wall. Her brother had helped. Nancy moved a chair out of her way, the four that sat around the dining room table, the table made of polished oak with two removable leaves. These sat in the hall closet, waiting for holidays. The every day floral tablecloth had stains, gravy stains and ketchup stains and mustard stains. She’d get out her good tablecloth for the big day. Dark blue, with a blocky yellow edge. Her Aunt Pansy had made it. Right now, her table had room for about four people. Tomorrow she’d put those leaves in so everyone coming by for Thanksgiving would have a place. She had folding chairs ready to go. She, Arthur, Arthur’s parents, her parents and Aaron and Alice, her two children. Eight people expected. She didn’t know if her brother would show up, with his newest girlfriend, some dishwater blond who liked whiskey. Who would like whiskey a lot. He kept showing up with the same woman, she just had different names. Her eyes rolled. Tom had a talent for picking out blondes who adored whiskey far more than anything else. The phone stopped ringing, after ten reet reets.

The thump of a small something hit the carpeted floor of the living room. She turned slightly and there lay a handful of thrown jacks, waiting for her to take her turn, a small battered red ball moving enticingly, trying to tempt her. “No, not ever.” The ball bounced and some of the jacks disappeared, rusty little toys from some other era. That red, worn ball floated toward her. “No! I am busy!” They tried to get her to play with them. At times, she could almost see whatever wanted her to play jacks. A small form, child-sized, with only half a face, at times. A little girl in a flour sack dress and chopped off dark hair, with eyes as pale as water. She thought there might be two little girls. A giant boy, so skinny she quite wanted to make him a milkshake. Rather harmless, wanting her to sit and play jacks. If only the damn house were infested with such harmless toy-playing things! The jacks, about ten of them, disappeared, the little well-used red ball as well. She had hurt their feelings. Oh well.

Something rolled past the doorway into the small, warped-floor kitchen, where she would cook the big turkey, make gravy from powdered cream of chicken soup and boil potatoes to mash. Something that would stand as tall as her knees, a big fuzzy furry black something that moved swiftly but slyly enough to let her catch a glimpse of it. Over and over as she got that rug into tip-top shape. Except for the eternal dust, the dog hair and the dust, of course. Over and over, that creature rolled, flashing by the door into the kitchen. Once it had tried to push her into the deep freezer. Whatever it was, its humor was that of a ten year old boy. As boys liked to hurt and harm, with no concept their pranks could actually cause damage of any kind. “Go take a nap, I am busy. No. Now leave me alone.” She often thought the fuzzy rolling ball of mischief had, at one time, been a boy. Maybe all little boys who died came back as rolling fuzzy balls that haunted housewives as they tried to get everything done for the damn holidays.

So far, no Mr. Blue. No unseen lips whispering at her. No if you kill her we’ll all go away So far, no Mr. Blue.

malheurriver 021.jpg
Not the house but close enough. Eastern Oregon

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