Category Archives: horror writing

Is Mickey Icky?


This post is about writer doubt. And Stephen King. Do those two things go together? If they don’t then Mickey is an awful writer and does not know how to do what he does. It would mean Mickey is icky.
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I used to think Stephen King was a totally over-rated writer. Back in the early eighties I read Carrie, King’s first novel, and got halfway through Firestarter, and had to give up. Partly because the book was overdue at the library, and also because I found the books mechanical and somewhat joyless in the writing. I thought he suffered greatly in comparison to writers I was in love with at the time like Ray Bradbury and Thomas Mann. I began to tell others that King was somewhat icky.
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But King was obviously also somewhat successful. He began to get his books made into movies and people who don’t read discovered the evil genius of a man who tells stories to scare them and laces them with a bit of real humanity, real human feeling, and love.
I saw it first in Stand by Me. That movie, starring young Wil Wheaton as the Steven King autobiographical character, really touched my heart and really made for me a deep psyche-to-psyche connection to somebody who wasn’t just a filmmaker, but somebody who was, at heart, a real human being, a real story-teller.

Now, the psyche I was connecting to may very well have been Rob Reiner, a gifted story-teller and film-maker. But it wasn’t the only King movie that reached me. The television mini-series made from It touched a lot more than just the fear centers of my brain as well. And people whose opinions I respect began telling me that the books The Dark Tower Trilogy and Misery were also amazing pieces of literature.
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So I picked up a copy of Hearts in Atlantis at Half-Price Books and began reading a Stephen King novel for the first time since the 80’s. MY HOLY GOD! King is not a little bit icky. He is so NOT ICKY that it makes Mickey sicky to have ever thought King was even a little bit icky! Here is a writer who loves to write. He whirls through pages with the writer’s equivalent of ballet moves, pirouettes of prose, grand jetés of character building, and thematic arabesque penchées on every side of the stage. I love what I have discovered in a writer I thought was somewhat icky. Growth and power, passion and precision, a real love of both the words and the story. He may not know what he is doing. But I know. And I love it.
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And so, while I have been editing the first novel I ever wrote, Superchicken, to make it ready for self-publishing, I have begun to ask myself the self-critical question, “Is Mickey really icky when he writes?” My first novel is full of winces and blunders and head-banging wonders that make me want to throw the whole thing out. But I can’t throw it out. It is the baby in the first bathwater that I ever drew from the tap. The answer to the questions of Micky ickiness have yet to be determined, and not by me. I guess I have to leave it up to you.

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Call of Cthulhu

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I feel the need to take up the subject of a role playing game that I planned for and played to a limited degree, but explored to the point of insanity.


But I am recovering now from the double-danged downers of taking care of my bankruptcy case and paying off a surprise new tax penalty that nearly sank my little boat. Therefore, I can’t go into this in depth until my mind is more fortified against the depredations of Yog Sothoth.
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So, next week I will begin talking endlessly and listlessly about the infinite insanity of Call of Cthulhu, the role-playing game. In a gibbering, half-insane manner, I will describe the playing of a game where you confront the depths of human darkness in an indifferent and terrifying world. And I will attempt to explain why a school teacher in his right mind (as much as a middle school teacher can be in his right mind) would ever take up such a game. So, stay tuned to Mickey the Dungeon Master’s silly little Saturday D&D blog.

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Bad, Bad Mickey

My writing has generated some bad reviews of late. Things I am not sure have very much validity, but are a part of public opinion you have to learn to live with. I recognize as an experienced public school teacher, there are always going to be people who automatically hate you for no reason, and will be motivated enough to find a reason, and even get you fired if they can.

The critics are not going to get me fired in this case, since I am a retired school teacher and no longer teaching. And I live on a pension, not the money I make on my novels (currently between $2.50 and $5.00 a month) so getting them banned from Amazon has no financial consequences.

My book The Baby Werewolf got a two-star review from a lady who claimed to have worked in publishing and editing. She said she hated to give a bad review, but my book was so unprofessional and bad that she had no choice but to recommend that nobody else ever reads it. She said it had too much telling rather than showing, an unprofessional cover, and a story that doesn’t have a coherent plot.

But she also says that my book, a horror comedy, is too creepy. And she qualifies that in that she thinks it’s creepy in ways that a horror story shouldn’t be creepy. She objects to humor involving Sherry Cobble, the nudist character. She says that she has no problem with the idea of nudism, just the way I use it.

So, I think, what it boils down to is she is not so much shaming the novel for being a bad novel, but she is saying that I, as the author, am either too stupid to effectively write a novel like this, or that I am a bad person with evil motives for writing a novel like this. So, she got me! Curses! Foiled again!

I do take note of the fact that this novel has also gotten glowing reviews from some other readers. So, I guess my evil plan worked on them. Whatever that evil plan was supposed to gain me, it must be working more often than it is foiled.

That happened again this week with my novel The Wizard in His Keep. It is due to get a two-star review via Pubby review exchange. I don’t know what the reviewer has found so offensive and wrong about my book, but it must be pretty serious in that Amazon has not yet approved that review after almost a week.

I have a fair amount of confidence as a writer. I have written things that won awards from editors. I have made the final round of judging in a novel-writing contest twice in the last decade. Whatever bad thing they are going to throw at me next, I can take it. There are no writers, even the great ones, that don’t get at least some unfair criticism. It can really hurt when the bad review is one of only eight total reviews. And bad reviews can make me depressed. But, I promise it won’t kill me.

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Tornado Dreaming

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This post won’t be funny.  So if you come seeking humor, be warned, every writer has a dark side, and this is about mine.

I have learned the hard way that there is a very special power to be gained from the Dreamlands.  But it is a dark and ominous power.  When H.P. Lovecraft wrote his nightmare horror stories about the Cthulhu Mythos and journeys in the Dreamlands seeking Unknown Kadath and other forbidden horrors, he may have been writing from real experience.  While dreams are couched in metaphor and must be interpreted, they also touch the physical contours of our reality.  And not just a light touch, either.  Dreams can be made of concrete and stone.  Further, I believe the dreaming mind is no longer bound by perceptual tricks we identify as “present time” in our waking lives.  The existence of every man is eternal.  Existence is beyond the control of the relative dimension in space we know as “time”.  In dreams you can actually reach out and touch both the distant past and the future.  Does this mean  I think I can foretell the future?  Of course not.  Are you daft?  If I could I would be a millionaire and far removed from health problems and dark depressions that define my inner, darker self.

But dreams shape and define my actual day-to-day existence, and not always for the better.

1966 was the year I turned ten, and the year the skies of my dreams turned dark.  My best friend at the time lived next door.  My best friend had an older brother who was five years older than me.  One day that older brother trapped me behind a pile of tractor tires in the neighbors’ back yard.  He pulled off my pants and my underpants.  He wasn’t gentle.  He twisted my most sensitive parts and forbid me to scream by threatening worse torture.  He introduced me to pain I never knew could exist before that day.  He forced me to endure torture for his personal pleasure.  He told me the incident was my own fault and he made me believe it.  I lost a part of my soul that day, and I would not remember what had happened for another twelve years, two-and-a-half emotional breakdowns later that school counselors and parents could never explain.  I never told anybody about it for years.  I could not have even written this paragraph until the summer before last… when he died of a heart attack.  He had power over me until I was 56 years old.

1966 was also the year of the tornado in Belmond, Iowa.  Both of my parents worked in Belmond.  When we were in school that day, we were studying weather in science.  The topic of nimbus clouds and storms came up.  Mrs, Mennenga, our teacher, pointed out the north window of the 4th grade classroom and said a cumulonimbus cloud was just like the one we could all see in the sky over Belmond, ten miles to the north.  She said that was the kind of cloud from which tornadoes would form.  It was ironic that that was exactly what was happening.  I spent that night at Uncle Larry’s farm knowing that a tornado had devastated Belmond, and not knowing if my mother and father were alive or dead.  (My father’s business was leveled, but he made it to the basement just as the building exploded and only had a deep scalp laceration.  My mother was a nurse at the hospital, and she, along with the rest of the hospital were miraculously spared.  Only six people were killed in the devastation.)  Needless to say, I know where my tornado nightmares come from.

So what is the real meaning behind Tornado Dreaming?  I firmly believe nightmares auger something in real life.  Granted it may be past as well as future, but dreams can come true for good or ill.  While I was in college, I dreamed one of my childhood friends was riding in a pickup truck in the back, where no one should ever ride, but farm kids always do.  A black tornado dropped out of the sky and knocked him out of the pickup and split open his head.  Only a week later, in real life, that same friend fell out of the back of a pickup and nearly died.  I had a tornado dream at age twenty-two that preceded remembering the sexual assault by two days.  It all came back to me and floored me like being stepped on by the boot of horrendous Cthulhu.  As a sophomore in high school I had a tornado dream that found me running for shelter into a house I had only entered twice in my life.  It was the house of another of my friends, and everyone there, many of whom were people I didn’t know, were crying over the death of someone.  My friend was there.  His twin brothers and little sister were there.  A woman that I later learned was his aunt was there.  His mother was there too.  Who were they all weeping for?  The following Monday I found out that my friend’s stepfather had been killed on his motorcycle by a drunk driver the same night that I had the dream.  Dreams can warn what the future holds.  But you cannot do anything to change the outcome.  Any attempts I made to change anything may have done more to cause the event than prevent it.  So, I am left wondering if this “gift of prophecy” is not merely a curse.

I have a novel or two to write about this if God grants me enough time to write them.  I am burdened by the very insight I am sharing with you here.  Why am I even talking about it at all, you ask?  Especially when I warned you from the start this wouldn’t be funny and practically no one will actually read this far?  I must confess.  Friday night I had another tornado dream.  In the dream, I was in Grandpa Aldrich’s farmhouse, the place where my mother and father now live.  My mother and I looked out the south window on the back porch.  There, swirling in dark gray-green, was a funnel cloud dancing against an ominous electric-green sky.  We were only steps away from the door to the storm cellar.  But before we reached safety, the dream ended.  What is about to happen?  Will talking about it cause something to happen?  Is Cthulhu knocking at the door?  Only time will tell.

Leap of Faith

This post is a copy of the original posted in January of 2015.

Now, seven years after I originally posted this dark and scary essay, I now know what this tornado dream meant. My parents were each of them still living at the farm when the grim reaper came for the final visit. It happened, all of it, during the Covid 19 pandemic. Thus, the green sky. The color green indicated a raging growth, in this case, the growth and mutation of the virus. I have now survived the virus myself, the Omicron variant failing to kill me. Of course, neither of my parents got the virus and died of other causes. So, the green tornado may yet claim me too.

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Novel Nudists

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I have known nudists for a long time, since the 1980’s in fact.  I have recently dabbled my toes in the cold waters of being a nudist myself.  I did work on pool cracks this past summer while naked.  I made one visit to a nudist park and actually got naked in front of strangers who were also naked.  It is a certain kind of crazy connection to nature, my self, and the bare selves of others to be a nudist, even if it is for only a few hours.  I used to think nudists were crazy people.  But I have begun to understand in ways that are hard to understand.  And being a novelist, that was bound to creep into the piles of supposedly wise understanding that goes into the creation of novels.  I say “supposedly wise” because wisdom is simply the lipstick on the pig of ridiculous human experiences.

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The Cobble family appeared first in my novel, Superchicken.  It is a semi-autobiographical novel that uses some of my real life experiences and the real life experiences of boys I either grew up with or taught, mixed in with bizarre fantasy adventures that came from my perceptions of life as an adult.  So the Cobble family really represent my encounters with nudism and the semi-sane people known as nudists.  Particularly important to the story are the Cobble Sisters, twins Sherry and Shelly, who fully embrace the idea of being nudists and try to get other characters to not only approve of the behavior, but share in it.  Sherry is the more forward of the two, more willing to be seen naked by the boys in her school and in her little Iowa farm town.  Shelly is the quieter of the two, a bit more shy and a lot more focused on the love of one particular boy.

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In fact, the Cobble Sisters are based on real life twin blond girls from my recollections of the past.  The Cobble farm is out along the Iowa River and just north of Highway Three in Iowa.  It is a real place where real twin girls lived when I was a boy.  They were blond and pretty and outgoing.  But they were not actually nudists.  There was another pair of twin blond girls from my first two years of teaching who actually provided the somewhat aggressively sensual personalities of the Cobble Sisters.  The real nudists I knew were mostly in Texas.

The sisters appear in more than one of the novels I have written or am in the process of writing.  They appear for the second time in the novel Recipes for Gingerbread Children which I finished writing in 2016.  They are also a part of the novel I am working on now, The Baby Werewolf.   That last is probably the main reason they are on my mind this morning.  Writing a humorous horror story about werewolves, nudists, pornographers, and real wolves is a lot more complex and difficult than it sounds.  But it is hopefully doable.  And my nudist characters are all basically representative of the idea that all honest and straight-forward people are metaphorically naked all the time.  That’s the thing about those nudist twins.  They don’t hide anything.  Not their most private bits, and certainly not what they are thinking at any given time.

So as I continue to struggle with revealing myself as a writer… and possibly as a nudist as well, I will count on the Cobble Sisters to make certain important points about life and love and laughter… and how you can have all three while walking around naked.

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Both novels discussed in this old post are now available from Amazon in self-published, finished form.

Here is the link for this book;

https://www.amazon.com/Baby-Werewolf-Michael-Beyer/dp/1791895379/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1545236655&sr=8-2&keywords=michael+beyer+books+the+baby+werewolf

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And its companion book and an intertwined story is easily found here;

https://www.amazon.com/Recipes-Gingerbread-Children-Michael-Beyer-ebook/dp/B07KQTMN7R/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1547520896&sr=8-1&keywords=michael+beyer+books+recipes+for+gingerbread+children

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A Simple Matter of Character (Part 2)

Some characters need to have their story told for reasons that are buried deep in the author’s personal history and damaged psyche. For me, Torrie Brownfield, the Baby Werewolf, was that kind of character.

The book, The Baby Werewolf, is a different kind of horror story. The central question of the book is this, “Am I a monster? And do I know why or why not?” And Torrie has to answer that question because he was born with a rare genetic disorder called hypertrichosis. It is the “werewolf-hair disease” where hair growth happens in unusual places on the body and in Torrie’s case, everywhere but the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet. He is a perfectly normal boy who really only looks like a monster. But how you look can have a profound impact on how people treat you.

And the character of the boy who looks like a werewolf and thinks he is a monster is based entirely on me. Unlike Valerie Clarke whose origins I can pinpoint, I have to honestly admit the way Torrie thinks and feels and acts are all based solely on me and me alone.

You see, when I was a boy of ten I went through a horrible traumatic experience that threw my whole life into darkness. And I kept it secret from everybody. In fact, for a few years, I kept it a secret even from myself.

It is not that I really didn’t remember I had been sexually assaulted by an older boy. The nightmares and remembered pain were a constant even when I couldn’t admit to myself what had happened. I defended myself from it all by burying the knowledge deep, and worrying about things that only sexual-assault victims worried about. I embarrassed myself twice in seventh grade by wetting my pants in class, all because I couldn’t go into the boys’ bathroom at school. Whenever I would have sexual urges of any kind, I would lie down or sit on the heating grate at home, burning scars into my lower back and the back of my lower legs. I fretted about how to fight monsters. And I knew from the movies that if a vampire bit you, you could become a vampire. And if a werewolf bit you, you could become a werewolf. So, if a sexual predator bites you, do you not become a…??

In all honesty I probably became a teacher at least in part to protect other kids from the same kind of thing that happened to me. And I had to write this book to tell the story of how not to be a monster.

The true monster in this monster-movie tale is actually Torrie’s uncle, the person who actually psychologically abuses him. And the villain proves himself to be a sexual deviant, trying to create kiddie porn in his photography studio.

I suppose I just spoiled the whole whodunnit part of the book. But the murder mystery was never the point of the novel. The message of this novel is that no child is ever a monster unless he actually chooses to become one.

And that is the kind of character Torrie Brownfield is. The autobiographical kind. The kind that brings the author’s worst fears about himself to light, and tries to answer the question with… “No, I am not a monster.”

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Dark Thinking

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On a quiet back street in Toonerville there is a haunted house.  Obviously four meddling kids and their talking dog are looking around inside, but they won’t find anything.  It is my dark place.  I am the only one that can go inside and discover what truly is there, for the dark things inside are all a part of the dark side of Mickey.

But Mickey doesn’t have a dark side, you try and argue.  Micky is all goofy giggles and nerdy Dungeons and Dragons jokes.  Mickey is all cartoons and silly stories and he makes us all guffaw.

But I can assure you, everyone has a dark side.  Without darkness, how can anyone recognize the light?

So, I have to go inside the old Ghost House every now and then and take stock of all the furniture, and make note of everyone… and every thing that has been living there.  I go in there now because I am starting to rewrite a very dark story that I really have to get down on paper in novel form.  It isn’t a true story.  Ghost stories never are.  But it is full of true things… old hurts, old fears, panics, and ghosts of Christmases Past.

There was the night I was stalked by a large black dog when I was nine and walking home from choir practice at the Methodist Church.  We are talking Hound of the Baskervilles sort of big damn dog.  I knew every dog that lived in town in those days, but I didn’t know that one. Maybe it wasn’t actually hunting me, but I ran the last two blocks to my house that night faster than I ever knew I could run before.

There was that cool autumn afternoon when he grabbed me and pushed me down behind a pile of tractor tires in the neighbor’s yard.  He forcibly got my pants down… and what he did to me… It has taken more than forty years to be able to talk about what happened.  I wasn’t able to talk about it until after I learned that he had died.

There were the nights spent in the emergency room.  Severe potassium depletion… chest pains that could’ve been heart trouble but weren’t… The morning when my blood pressure was so high I thought I was going to die in front of my second period seventh grade English class.  And the terrible waits in the emergency room when someone I loved was serious about suicide… that was the most terrible of all.

I am not frightened by the grim reaper in the same way that Shaggy and Scooby are.  I have spent time in his company too many times for that.  I do not fear him.  In some ways he brings welcome relief.  And I do believe I can beat him in chess and at least tie him in checkers.

So, yeah, the dark resources are all still there… still in place at the bottom of a deep, dark well. Bad things do wait in the future… but they are in the present and the past also.  I am not a slave to fear and evil has no power over me.  So, I think I can safely write a horror story.  And I admit I am not Steven King.  But I don’t want to be him.  I want to be Mickey.  And that is certainly scary enough for me.

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H. P. Lovecraft Gaming

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Back in the early 1990’s my little group of game players turned the full power of nerd obsession on the fantasy role-playing game Call of Cthulhu.  It is a totally weird little game based on the novels and short stories of H. P. Lovecraft.   It is a game about solving mysteries that, if successfully solved, will lead you to confrontations with all-powerful ancient evils that you cannot win against.  And you keep playing until your character absorbs so many insanity points that they go completely insane.  Your character then becomes a minion of demonic and irresistible evil that the next player character you roll up will have to hunt and defeat.  It is not a game you ever win.  You merely have to learn to survive and stay sane, things at which the game is set up to make you fail.

In 1991 the television gods took an old vampire soap opera that I had loved in the 60’s and remade it.  Dark Shadows came back to life starring Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins (the Chariots of Fire guy playing the vampire role that would later have a part in the downfall of Johnny Depp.)  The lead player in our group, a kid who was such a nerd that he would go one to be in the intelligence division of the Marine Corps, decided his character would have to be the vampire Barnabas Collins.  He reasoned that the only way to fight big evils was to fight back with evil that had been converted back to goodness.

And his instincts were good.  Barnabas and his lady love, Victoria Winters, were the only player characters not eaten by the minions of Nyarlathotep in the first adventure.  And Victoria had to be raised from the dead by having Barnabas turn her into a Vampire.

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Of course, the very next challenge would be from a white witch voodoo priestess from New Orleans, the Vampire hunter Sofia Jefferson.  (She was an NPC, not Sofie’s player character).  And she had a special potion that, given to a vampire, would restore it to normal human life.

This was a problem for Barnabas, because he really depended on his powers as a vampire and was not willing to go on without those powers.  So the vampire hunter had to be avoided without killing her and putting an end to her good work fighting evil.  If you can’t tell from the picture, Sofia was blind, yet could see with uncanny vision through sightless eyes.

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The next player character added to survive more than one adventure borrowed Luis’s vampire idea by making his character from the movie Darkman, a Liam Neeson movie about a doctor who had burned his face off, but could become other people by wearing their cloned skin.  He was the lead investigator to help solve the werewolf problem in the bayou , and took on the dark circus adventure where the foolish sideshow people were trying to make money exhibiting the captured Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

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There was a lot of death and horrible murders in those game sessions, but not committed by the player characters.  They had to keep good notes and draw conclusions and manage their characters’ powers and assets.  Notes like these;

And so, while the game never ended to my satisfaction, the players did get the feel of acting in a horror movie and fighting on the side of goodness against evil.  It was weird, but definitely worth doing.

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The Wolf in My Dreams

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Rosemary Hood was a bright, blond seventh grader who entered my seventh-grade Gifted English class in September of 1998.  She introduced herself to me before the first bell of her first day.

“I am definitely on your class list because my Mom says I belong in gifted classes.”

“Your name is Rosemary, right?”

“Definitely.  Rosemary Bell Hood, related to the Civil War general John Bell Hood.”

“Um, I don’t see your name on my list.”

“Well, I’m supposed to be there, so check with the attendance secretary.  And I will be making A’s all year because I’m a werewolf and I could eat you during the full moon if you make me mad at you.”

I laughed, thinking that she had a bizarre sense of humor.  I let her enter my class and issued her copies of the books we were reading.  Later I called the office to ask about her enrollment.

“Well, Mr. Beyer,” said the secretary nervously, “the principal is out right now with an animal bite that got infected.  But I can assure you that we must change her schedule and put her in your gifted class.  The principal would really like you to give her A’s too.”

So, I had a good chuckle about that.  I never gave students A’s.  Grades had to be earned.  And one of the first rules of being a good teacher is, “Ignore what the principal says you should do in every situation.”

But I did give her A’s because she was a very bright and creative student (also very blond, but that has nothing to do with being a good student).  She had a good work ethic and a marvelous sense of humor.

She developed a crush on Jose Tannenbaum who sat in the seat across from her in the next row.  He was a football player, as well as an A student.  And by October she was telling him daily, “You need to take to me to the Harvest Festival Dance because I am a werewolf, and if you don’t, I will eat you at the next full moon.”

All the members of the class got a good chuckle out of it.  And it was assumed that he would. of course, take her to the dance because she was the prettiest blond girl in class and he obviously kinda liked her.  But the week of the dance we did find out, to our surprise, that he asked Natasha Garcia to the dance instead.

I didn’t think anything more about it until, the day after the next full moon, Jose didn’t show up for class.  I called the attendance secretary and asked about it.

“Jose is missing, Mr. Beyer,” the attendance secretary said.  “The Sherrif’s office has search parties out looking for him.”  That concerned me because he had a writing project due that day, and I thought he might’ve skipped school because he somehow failed to finish it.  When I saw Rosemary in class, though, I asked her if, by any chance, she knew why Jose wasn’t in class.

“Of course I do,” she said simply.  “I ate him last night.”

“Oh.  Bones and all?”

“Bone marrow is the best-tasting part.”

So, that turned out to be one rough school year.  Silver bullets are extremely expensive for a teacher’s salary.  And I did lose a part of my left ear before the year ended.  But it also taught me valuable lessons about being a teacher.  Truthfully, you can’t be a good teacher if you can’t accept and teach anyone who comes through your door, no matter what kind of unique qualities they bring with them into your classroom.

 

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Up and Over the Hard Hill

I made it there. I voted. I am a pessimist and fully expect the pumpkin-head prexydink to win reelection and then succeed in dooming planet Earth. But I got my one little vote against him cast and counted. I no longer have to feel like our collective ultimate doom is all my fault. And I probably didn’t even catch COVID.

The polling precinct I was assigned to is in the middle of white-racist suburbia where threatening Ilhan Omar with deportation or death is a favorite sport watched nightly on Fox News. I fully expected an hours-long wait to vote, since there are black and Hispanic voters not far from here that have to take a day of work (if they are lucky enough to still have a job) to wait seven to eleven hours just to get in the door. And last time Trump supporters were riotous and jubilant in voting en mass, intent on sticking it to Hillary. It was crowded.

This time… no lines and very subdued. I voted in less than ten minutes after arriving.

I wonder. Are they ashamed to vote for him again? Or are they all on ventilators after the last Trump rally?

I am not gloating. I fully expect to lose again. Nothing gets you a political victory faster than corruptly giving the keys to the kingdom to your rich donors with unlimited dark money. But it is important to be on the right side even if you are doomed to lose the war.

Anyway, I did it. As hard as it was to climb that hill and vote at the top, it was a pleasant stroll on the way back home.

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