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EPISODE 02 REDUX: “The Ones that Aren’t Crows”

The Seward Whale Strike Tragedy, they called icrowst. Twenty-five people dead. The worst accident in Alaska’s tourism history since Will Rogers’ plane went down in ‘35.  Only one man left alive knows the truth of what really happened — the man everyone agrees caused the tragedy to start with.  And if there’s one thing he’s sure of, the thing they hit that day was no whale.

Presented here is his testimony, as transcribed for an interview with Paranorm Violations Magazine.

This podcast adapts the short story “The Ones that Aren’t Crows” found in the collection A Consternation of Monsters as well as the unabridged audiobook of the collection.

DOWNLOAD:  Episode 02: “The Ones that Aren’t Crows”

Actual Conversations I Personally Witnessed On a Cruise Ship Last Week

Dressed in our casual formal finest, my wife and I approached the host station of the ship’s main dining room hoping to get a table for dinner.  In line ahead of us, however, was an older man on a Rascal Scooter, was clad in what appeared to be loose, baggy, white pajama shorts, from which were sticking his pale bird legs, and a dinner jacket.
 
MAN: You mean I have to go all the way back upstairs just to put on pants?! Aw, come on!!!
 
The maître d tried gamely to inform the man and his wife that he could indeed find a table for them if they insisted, but he suggested it would really be for the best if the man simply went and put on pants. Meanwhile the man on the scooter was attempting a three point turn on the Rascal, in an effort to beat a snail-crawl retreat, while his wife loudly defended her husband’s attire and good name.
WIFE:  What’s the matter with what he’s wearing?!  I’ve seen people in there wearing rags! Rags!!
 
We saw the man return later wearing pants, sans scooter.

Sophie’s Escape Room

Last Friday, our friend Belinda Anderson called to see if I and “the kids” wanted to go on a walk with her down at the fish hatchery in White Sulphur Springs.  By “the kids” she meant of course the only offspring my wife and I have dared to produce, our three dogs, Sadie, Moose and Maya.  I thought it was an outstanding idea, as the past two days had been nice, with temperatures in the 60s for the first time since November.  I was also eager to get a look at the fish hatchery, to see how it was rebounding from the devastating flooding in the area last June.

Trouble was, I had a Sophie’s choice to make when it came to “the kids” because I had three dogs and only two leashes.

We actually own three leashes, but the third retractable leash was in the wife’s car, at work, and I couldn’t find so much as a cloth leash in the house.  Even if I’d had all three leashes, though, the task of taking our three dogs on a walk with only two human beings present is not one I ever relish.  I always wind up having to walk at least two of them, passing Moosie off to Belinda since he’s only 45 pounds of brown obedient dog to deal with.  I then have to walk Sadie and Maya, who are 80ish pounds each, don’t really like each other much, and have a tendency to run in opposite directions when they’re not making a braid with Moose’s leash.  But, hey, I only had the two leashes, I reasoned, so that meant I had to leave one dog at the house.  And since Sadie and Moose have seniority, Maya was have to be the one to get left behind.  Not that this makes the job of leaving her any easier.  If you leave Maya outside with her shock collar on (her “purty collar”) she just howls and jumps on the car with her huge St. Bernard feet and claws, trying to get in with the others.  And if you leave her in the house, she’ll just park herself in the stairwell window and leap on the glass there, potentially tearing down the blinds, while simultaneously rolling huge doggie tears that will break the heart of any dog parents backing out of the driveway, facing her.

Instead, I left her in our bedroom and closed the door.  I figured probably have a nap on our bed, maybe do her nails, and really get in some “me” time while we were gone for an hour or so.  Then I’d give her extra treats when I got home, take her for a walk down the trail and all would be forgiven.  Thusly planned, Sadie, Moose and I left for our walk at the fish hatchery.

An hour or so later we returned to find Maya waiting in the yard.

Er.

This wasn’t good.

Maya being out of the house meant one of three things: A) the wife had come home early, and had let Maya out (not likely, as her car was not in the driveway); B) an intruder had broken in and let Maya out; or C) Maya had somehow managed to escape the locked house on her own.  I wasn’t sure which of these options I liked the least.

We know from experience that Maya can get into the house if the doors are unlocked because she knows how to operate the exterior handles of both the back and front doors (one of which normally requires an opposable thumb).  However, those doors were both locked, not to mention she’d been left in a closed bedroom the door knob of which she has yet to master.  Given her weight, though, I was immediately afraid that she might have managed to break the glass of our floor-length bedroom windows, which are practically door-sized themselves.  She had no blood on her, though, so if she broke out she did it cleanly.  This would require investigation.

Slowly I unlocked and opened the front door.  No intruders killed me.  The back door, I saw, was closed and locked and the bedroom door was still in place and closed.  I opened it to find that indeed she had gone through a window, just without breaking the glass.  What she appears to have done was chosen the one window in the room that is covered by a screen, clawed through that screen and used her weight to force open the window on its track.  She could have tried any of the other screenless windows, but, no, she had to go through the one with the screen.  The window has two latches, but only the top one was closed.  It gave to her force without actually breaking, though.  Once it was open enough to squeeze out, she was free.  Only later did we discover that she’d also peed all over Sadie’s dog bed, which was directly in front of her escape window.

I was angry, sure, but mostly at the screen being torn.  Her escape was otherwise pretty impressive and definitely sent a message that she doesn’t want to be left behind.

When we were about to climb into bed that night, we discovered yet another doggie protest action, one which did not feel good to discover in sock feet: the dog bed directly beneath the window through which Maya had escaped was soaked through with what we can only assume is dog pee.  At least, there were no empty 32 oz cups of water handy.  And it was Sadie’s bed, Maya’s usual arch nemesis.   She probably decided that if Sadie got to go somewhere, at least she wouldn’t have a dry bed to sleep in later.  Either that or Maya just really had to go and didn’t quite make it until her escape could be enacted.

The job of replacing the screen has got us in a screen replacement project for the five or so screens our various doggie residents have destroyed over the years.  They’re such a pain in the ass to replace, though, that after we did the one Maya tore up, we decided to make it a one-screen-per-day kind of project.  Or maybe one a week.

Awful lot of honkies in here.

Things are about to get racial.

For Christmas this year, my wife got me something I’ve been wanting to have for the past few months or so: an Ancestry.com DNA kit.  Now the true reason I wanted one to begin with probably has more to do with a short story idea I had last May than any actual research into my own genetic background.  But, like many of us, I’ve always been curious about what that background might entail.

The first time I voiced my desire to get a DNA kit to her, though, was probably while watching the TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s series Outlander.  It’s a show set in Scotland and all the dudes on the show look cool in their kilts.  I’ve always wanted to wear a kilt, but wouldn’t dare do so unless I actually had Scottish heritage myself.  Otherwise, it would be like that time I bought a Rasta hat in college, only to be asked by a real Rastafarian if I was a believer or just wearing it for the fashion–which was my first clue that I was appropriating another group’s culture and that this might not be cool with folks from that culture.  So if I was going to go around appropriating cultures, I wanted to at least have my genetic ducks in a row.  During Outlander, I announced I was going to get an Ancestry DNA kit, and if I was anything greater than, say, 10 percent of a Scot I would be purchasing a kilt and tartan which I would then wear exclusively, at least until winter.

Unfortunately, I already knew that I was probably not all that Scottish to begin with.  From everything I’ve been told, I come from Franco-German stock, with ancestors originating in Alsace Lorraine back when it was part of Germany. But then again, I reasoned, that’s only on my grandpa Fritzius’s side.  I know nothing about my dad’s mother’s people, the Blaylocks, nor anything about the genetic history of my mother’s people, the Dunnams and the Huttos. There were also the rumors of Native American blood somewhere back on my Grandma Blaylock’s side–rumors which she always seemed cagey about, and which my dad believed must be true since Grandma was so cagey.  Dad also suspected that we might have some Jewish ancestry woven in there somewhere, which considering our alleged European origins was not beyond the realm of possibility.  My grandparents’ vehement denial of that possibility only served to make the rumor seem stronger.

The wife ordered my DNA kit, which arrived just in time for Christmas.  And when we returned home from Christmas holidays, I busted it open and took my DNA test–or, rather, I supplied the sample of my DNA for the Ancestry folks to test.  This involved spitting into a little plastic tube, pouring in some spit fixer and shakin’ it all up.  (In order to get a good DNA sample, I had to refrain from consuming anything but water for an hour or so–lest I turn up as genetically descended from a Dorito.)  I put the whole thing in their postage paid package, filled out my info online, and sent it off.  Immediately, I began dreaming of the exotic lands my people may have come from.  I didn’t actively start shopping for kilts, or anything, but I could always dream.  I was looking forward to receiving my results, all spelled out, with no actual research required on my part.  After all, I spent a goodly number of years working in a public library in which I devoted more than a little bit of time ridiculing the Genealogy People–those folks who either frequented our establishment looking for local records that would lead them to their ancestors, or who used our computers to sign in to their Ancestry.com accounts to do the leg work–who were, to a person, completely unafraid of going on at length to the library staff about the mind-numbingly boring details of all of their research, forcing us to occasionally gnaw off a leg to escape.  And, y’know, God love `em for having a hobby and being passionate about something in life, but I will NOT become one of those people.

Weeks crept by.

Occasionally, Ancestry would send us emails apologizing for taking so long, then teasing us more by offering to let us research surnames on their site so we could get a head start, I guess.  I toyed around with this, trying very hard not to get excited about any of it, lest I catch the Genealogy People bug.  I did note that there were some Dunnams who’d turned up in census data in Scotland, but they were not necessarily ones related to me specifically.  I’d have to do actual research, or get a full Ancestry.com membership to see if someone else had already done the research, before I could know that.  If you thought about it, though, regardless of where the Dunnams, Huttos, Blaylocks, or Fritziuses were known to have lived, I could be party anything, really.  There were a good number of generations and a couple of continents between my grandpa’s Alsace Lorraine ancestors and today, with four contributing genetic donors for each successive soul along the way.  I might be part African, for all I knew–though my wife took particular glee in shooting down that likelihood.  I was hoping for something that at least seemed exotic and distant.  The possibilities were intoxicating.

“Ooh!  Ooooh!” I exclaimed one night, while we were watching an episode of Vikings.

Immediately guessing what I was about to say, the wife shouted “You’re not a Viking!”

“You don’t know!” I replied, hurt.

“Yes, I do,” she said.  “They’re all big, blond and Nordic looking.  You’re short, dark, and stumpy.”

“There were stumpy Vikings, too!” I said.  “I’d be a kick ass stumpy Viking.  You’ve seen all those long boats I made.”

She refused to entertain the idea, nor to fetch me any mead.

The notes from Ancestry not containing my results continued on for weeks.  Then, they sent another note not containing my results, which said they were at long last working on them.  And a week later, they sent another note saying that they’d finished them and would soon be revealing the results to us, but were not actually revealing the results with that particular email.  (I theorize that Ancestry.com employees are descended from assholes, but that’s just me.)

On Monday of this week, I was rudely awakened by my wife at the crack of 7:30.  She’d been reading her iPad in bed, had checked her email, and saw that my genetic results were finally in.  I blearily roused, squinting at the screen where she clicked the link in the email and a pie chart popped up.

Turns out, I’m mostly just a white guy.

About as white as they come, in fact.

My ancestors, it would seem, primarily hale from darkest Great Britain, to the tune of around 40 percent.  (Your average native Great Britainer is around 60 percent, so I’m not too far off.)  Initially I was excited about this, because Scotland is, after all, a part of the UK.  Looking at their colorized map graph, though, the darkest of the tiered color ranges largely excludes Scotland and Wales, which fall in the next lighter shade down (as are the Netherlands and a chunk of France).  I’m 27 percent Irish, which I assume means I’m forever more allowed to have a shot of Jameson with my Guinness when I’m down at the local Irish Pub.  Surprisingly to me, I’m only 13 percent Western European, with Alsace Lorraine smack in the middle of the map there.  I’m also around 9 percent from the Iberian Peninsula, which centers out on Spain and Portugal.  Who knew?  I’ll take it.

Oh, and I was delighted to learn that I’m approximately 6 percent Scandinavian, and two percent Finnish/Western Russian, so all those stumpy-legged Viking long boats I made in the garage may yet come in handy after all.  I’ll sail down the Greenbrier and pillage Alderson, or something.

In the less than 5 percent genetic estimate range, I’m apparently 1 percent Greek and/or Italian, 1 percent Eastern European, and, in point of fact, I do appear to be 1 percent African.  North African, to be general, with a possible origin spread across Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and maybe the edge of Libya thrown in.  That’s how genetics works, right?

What I am apparently not: I’m 0 percent anywhere else in Africa, 0 percent European Jewish, 0 percent Pacific Islander, 0 percent middle Eastern, 0 percent anywhere in South America, and 0 percent Asian (except for 1 percent that they say originates from Caucasus, which I think is where they invented white people, so I guess that gives me bonus honky points).

All in all, I guess I’m happy with my results.  It is odd to think that I’m not nearly as French and German as I had assumed I would be, but I’ll take Great Britain.  Some of my favorite things in the world come from there anyway, from Doctor Who to Neil Gaiman to Douglas Adams and Monty Python.  If that’s my heritage, I guess I’m in good company.  I still would have liked a more specific tie to Scotland, but if that’s to be found I’ll likely have to join up with Ancestry and do some actual research.  And then I’ll be dangerously close to becoming a genealogy person, and will soon be blogging exclusively about it.

EPISODE 01 redux: “…to a Flame”

The Mothman of West Virginia is reported to be a winged creature, the size of a man, but wEPISODE 1: "...to a Flame"ith glowing red eyes.  It was reportedly witnessed on multiple occasions around the area of Point Pleasant, W.Va., during the 1960s and has been reported around the world since.  An ominous creature, its presence often seems to portend doom for those who see it.

When Virgil Hawks shoots one behind his tool shed, he knows the portents for his own future aren’t good.  He seeks help from the one man he can trust… his good buddy Jeff.

This podcast adapts the short story “…to a Flame” found in the collection A Consternation of Monsters as well as the unabridged audiobook of the collection.

DOWNLOAD:  Episode 01 redux: “…to a Flame”

 

ASSOCIATED BLOG ENTRIES

EPISODE 00: Foreword

The Consternation of Monsters Podcast is an ongoing project, adapting and excerpting a few of the stories found in the short story collection A Consternation of Monsters as well as the unabridged audiobook of the collection.

While many of these stories have been featured in the previous iteration of this podcast from 2015, this redux edition will feature new stories, new live readings and stage play adaptations, as well as excerpts from the official unabridged audiobook of the collection now available through Amazon.com, iTunes, and Audible.com.

This EPISODE 00 features the foreword to the book by noted paranormal radio host Rik Winston.

DOWNLOAD:  Episode 00: Foreword

 Associated Blog Entries

Upcoming Sightings & Appearances

Eric is making signing and speaking appearances to promote A Consternation of Monsters.  (He also occasionally does some acting.)  You’ll find those appearances and roles here.

February 2-4, 2017– (Greenbrier Valley Theatre, Lewisburg, W.Va)  Eric will be directing The Magic of Niagara by playwright Margie Semilof, and will be acting in Barrage from the Garage by Dan Borengasser, as part of the 2017 New Voices Play Festival.

 

March 23-26, 2017– (Longwood University, Farmville, Va.)  Eric’s short play Fargo 3D will be produced as part of Longwood University’s 0 to 60 Ten Minute Play Festival.

May 19-20, 2017– (Pocahontas County Opera House, Marlinton, W.Va.) Eric will be directing the full length play The People at the Edge of Town by A.J. DeLauder, for the Pocahontas Drama Workshop’s May production.

May 11-13, May 18-20, May 25-27, 2017– (Madlabs Theatre, Columbus, Ohio)  Eric’s short play Fargo 3D will be produced as part of the three week long 18th Annual Madlab Theatre Roulette festival.  It will be performed during one night of the festival per weekend (May 13, 18, 26 at 8 p.m.) and during the 21-play complete roulette run on May 27.

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