“A Night at Storytime Hamlet” by Richard Klin
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Richard Klin paints a distorted picture of classic storybook characters.
As Chessy slowly approached Thomas’s house, he offered up his usual fervent litany: that Thomas’s mother or father wouldn’t answer the door, and if they did, the strained, obligatory small talk would somehow be less excruciating than usual. But fortune was smiling on him this evening—Thomas was perched right outside. For now, at least, the parents could be avoided.
Tonight’s order of business involved a trip to see an older guy by the name of Jed. Thomas was an endless fountain of shady schemes and ambitious logistics.
They both climbed into Thomas’s car, and Chessy was quickly informed, to his amazement, that Jed actually lived in a little house right behind Storytime Hamlet.
Chessy had been to Storytime Hamlet, of course, when he was little. It was right off the pike, and its large, elaborate castle towers festooned with banners could be seen up and down the highway. The procedure was to pass through the castle gates and be greeted by the looming, exceedingly strange statue of Enchantra the Spell-Caster, who presided over all of Storytime Hamlet. It was quite something to wind around the hamlet’s twisty paths and streams and come face-to-face with Rapunzel’s tower, a detailed, elaborate structure that featured—way at the top—Rapunzel and her freakishly long tresses spilling out of the window. Or the lovingly crafted domicile of the Three Little Pigs, industriously fortifying their home while the predatory Wolf lay in wait behind a bush. Another path yielded an oversized shoe and the hunched, shawl-wearing old woman who resided there, along with her numerous, unruly brood. Jack Spratt and his wife were housed nearby, neighbors of Mary and her Little Lamb and Goldilocks.
By now the sun was beginning its descent. Thomas drove quickly but carefully, and soon they passed the scattered, uninviting motels that dotted the pike, a parked car or two the only signs of life.
Suddenly, Storytime Hamlet’s majestic turrets came into sight: blazing blue-and-red banners hung limply in the summer night, and Chessy spotted the towering fiddle-playing cat and moon-leaping cow that he remembered so well. They entered via a gate situated way out in back that he hadn’t known even existed.
There were a handful of cottages tucked away in this far corner of Storytime Hamlet. Thomas stepped up and gave two loud, emphatic knocks on one of the cottage doors.
After a moment or two the door flew open, and a cheerful-looking man with an enormous, almost startling moustache greeted them. Jed. His moustache was so formidable that it obliterated much of his mouth, from which dangled a cigarette.
They were ushered into what proved to be a shabby little domicile, air thick with cigarette smoke. A couch of institutional gray was shoved against a wall next to a small chair. Chessy felt a stab of disappointment. He’d expected more from a cottage in Storytime Hamlet.
Jed plopped down on the couch and, surprisingly solicitous, urged them to sit—which they did, obligingly arranging themselves on his floor. Suddenly, in one swift motion, Jed reached under the couch and pulled out an overstuffed, bulging baggie. Seconds later he spilled some pot on the table and, with the cigarette dangling from his lips, rapidly, expertly constructed a joint perfect in its symmetry.
“Fresh from Hawaii,” Jed announced, exhaling a cloud of smoke. “It’s not just about pineapples,” he concluded happily.
He lit the joint, took a deep drag, and passed it on to Thomas and then Chessy.
Chessy lost track of how long they’d stayed at Jed’s cottage or how much he’d smoked. Finally, they staggered out, each of them carrying a hidden baggie stuffed down their pants.
In their collective daze they failed to retrace their steps and began inadvertently wandering through Storytime Hamlet. A distinct mood of apprehension began to surface. They were in possession of a good deal more than a few joints’ worth.
They continued their meanderings. The grotesque Jack Spratt, it now seemed to Chessy, was clearly a psychopath. And he was jolted by the sight of a terrified Humpty Dumpty perched precariously on a wall.
“There’s someone here,” Thomas said evenly.
“Alice in Wonderland?” Chessy asked, and then realized, with a sick horror, that Thomas wasn’t joking.
Far off in the distance could be glimpsed the faint outlines of two figures—two figures slowly, gradually moving in their direction.
“Let’s get to the fucking car,” Thomas whispered with a surprising amount of fear, and Chessy went numb.
But in their befuddlement they had yet again taken a wrong turn and now stood face-to-face with Santa’s workshop. A corpulent, perverted Santa wielded his powerful hammer while evil-looking elves cavorted and danced. They tried to collect their bearings at the sight of the malicious-looking Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, his long coat flapping behind him and his wife’s head protruding from an oversized pumpkin. Storytime Hamlet was a much larger, more complicated place than they’d realized.
The two shadowy figures, amorphous and dark, were still gradually advancing. Perhaps these two were entirely uninterested in any sort of contact whatsoever and were simply here in Storytime Hamlet for their own nefarious purposes. Or not.
Chessy’s legs began to ache from steady, coursing apprehension. A sudden bolt of white light exploded in front of them, and he and Thomas stood stock-still as tinny music emanated from some unidentifiable source. Somehow they had activated Sleeping Beauty’s chamber—the glass-enclosed structure was alive with music and ablaze with light. Sleeping Beauty, who looked like a murder victim, was stretched out on a bed.
It was late, very late, and all was quiet.
RICHARD KLIN is the author of Something to Say (Leapfrog Press), a series of profiles of various artists discussing the intersection of art and politics. His work has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and has appeared in the Brooklyn Rail, the Forward, Chronogram, online at January and CounterPunch, and others.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Nov 20, 2014
Featured: Music/Popular Culture/Art
- The Jesus Lizard Book
- Go the Fuck to Sleep
- Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight into Primus and the World of Les Claypool
- Jonah Sees Ghosts
- Go Fish
- Sale GTFTS/YHTFE Bundle
- Censorship Now!! (LIMITED SIGNED HARDCOVER EDITION)
- What Is Punk?
- Hard Art, DC 1979
- Artificial Light
- The Bear Who Wasn’t There: And the Fabulous Forest
- Jerusalem Calling