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Monday, July 18, 2011

Mermaids, Pirates, Sea Monsters and Satyrs

Warning: Contains material that some may consider offensive and/or objectionable.


Hi, everybody! I’m back again.

Summer’s a time for fun in the sun (as the cliché goes), beaches, picnics and definitely releases of new blockbuster movies! But it can also be a time for old (and even new) cheap budget movies too. At least if you’re a B-rated movie nerd like me. Whether you like to watch them merely to laugh at or if you simply like obscure movies of all kinds, you may want to take a look at my new article at examiner.com on sci fi horror movies that are perfect for summer beach parties (or pool parties for those of you who live inland, like me) or even just to watch on your own or with a small group of friends. The list of movies I suggest in the article actually include both blockbusters and B-rateds, although all of them go back pre-2010. There just hasn’t seemed to be any new releases of great (A- or B-rated) sci fi-horror with summer or beach party themes out there lately. Although there is one coming up called Shark Night in 3D, which I saw the trailer for but it looked to be your too typical, college frat style gore flick even for this B-rated fan and college graduate. That’s supposed to be coming in September, just before summer officially ends. You can see the trailer at the International Movie Database for yourself, though, and see what you think. It may suit your meaty taste. (Just a little shark humour there; dumb, I know.)

I attended Sacramento’s first annual mermaid parade on Saturday and it was a wipe out! It had a bigger turn-out than what I expected considering that it was the very first of its kind in Sacramento. It was full of colourful costumes of both mermaid and mermen alike. Also, some pirates—the Pirates of Sacramento that is—and even a Viking warrior joined in the procession. It was kind of like carnival only with sea characters and not as wild, such as furniture being thrown out upper story windows as a Brazilian friend of mine had told me they do in Rio de Janeiro. (Although I’d probably risk getting hit by furniture just to see Rio’s carnival!). I’ll try to have some photos of it for you in my next post.

I have another one of my fiction stories below. Like my last one that I posted here at the Fantastic Site (which you can read here)I’m going to divide it into at least two postings. I hope you enjoy it. And please, do feel free to drop me comments about it.

I know I’ve been posting somewhat inconsistently for the last several months, which I apologise for greatly. I’ve had a lot of projects on my hands, including my book of short fiction that I’m presently working on which I hope to have published by the last week of November. But I’ll be sure to have Part Two of this story up by the first week of August so you won’t have to go back eyeing through Part One so much just to get what the second part is all about.

Happy reading, and until next time . . . !



The Bazaar

Steven Rose, Jr.



Monte Horta rushed pushing his overloaded cart down the infinite aisles of Wallace’s Bazaar. He was so absorbed in his shopping, as always, that he could not remember anything of his life from before he entered the doors of the new mega store. Even though he did not have a watch and did not see a clock anywhere, he knew it had been over an hour since he had been trying to find the front registers. No matter where he rolled his cart to, he could not even see the ends of the building. The landscape of shelves and racks, both loaded with factory packaged as well as non-packaged items, seemed to stretch into the horizon. However, Monte did finally remember something of his life as he rolled his cart into the women’s clothes section. The headless mannequin torso that he passed by in there reminded him of his girlfriend, Grace Salvador. It wore a pink, tight blouse much like one that Grace often wore. Grace’s favorite color was pink, especially when it came to blouses and sweaters which she often wore tight. From then on, Monte was even more desperate to find the front registers so he could pay for his things and get home. He had a date with Grace that evening and she was planning on staying the night as she did almost every weekend.

#

As Monte entered the electronics department, he noticed his multiple images of himself rolling their carts toward him from within the giant television screens. He remembered that he had passed by there only a little after entering the store. Relieved, he thought to himself, you’re approaching the front registers! So he continued rolling his cart in the direction he remembered he had come into the store from.

#

He thought he had come into the store from that direction. He wheeled his cart through the auto department. Then the kitchen appliance department. The bath towel department. By the time he rolled into the aisles of mirrors, he could still see no end to the store interior. He would have to ask a sales person in that section. As he strolled down an aisle between two rows of mirrors, he saw on both sides himself multiplied an infinite number of times: an infinite number of a single shopper wearing a Celtic dragon design shirt over a bulging stomach, pushing a cart overloaded with various items, every one of them a precious stone that he could not do without. Because there was such a myriad of mirrors that hung on the front side of the customer service counter, on the stand-alone wall in back of it and on the display shelf directly across from it, and because these mirrors infinitely multiplied both the counter and the other shoppers who were passing by with their overloaded carts, it took Monte several minutes to locate the clerk. The clerk was a small, young Asian Indian looking man, perfectly clean shaven. “Can I help you, sir?” he asked Monte enthusiastically.

Monte said, “Which way to the registers?”

The clerk offered, “I can ring that up for you here sir,” pointing to Monte’s treasure chest-on-wheels overflowing with brand new artifacts.

Monte hesitated. Then after realizing something, he said with appreciation, “Great.” He had just realized that if he paid for his stuff now it would give him one less thing to do when he would finally get to the front of the store. At least here there was no line. So he rolled the cart up to the small counter that stood hidden among the multiplied images of itself and its employee staffing it. However, as he rolled closer to the counter, he suddenly noticed himself multiplying and walking toward himself! As he flinched back from his multiple reflections, the clerk said, “This way, sir.”

Monte now sensed the clerk’s voice coming from in back of him. He spun around, dizzily, to find the real clerk and the real counter. The clerk laughed good humoredly. Monte, however, was in no mood for humor. He knew he must have been shopping inside that store for hours already. He had yet to get home, get a shower, dress and get his car washed for his date with Grace. He also knew he was going to go over his account again on his credit card. He would have to charge many of his purchases to his utilities account.

As the clerk shot the scan gun at the code bar of a box from Monte’s cart, Monte noticed the mirror: an “ancient” artifact, full body, very classic in its gold painted frame which was elaborately carved with nude young women, blissful babies and young satyrs—who had little pointed goatees and slight diabolical, mischievous looks in their tiny eyes—all dancing around the mirror in an oval. Some of the satyrs seemed to stare at Monte, saying, “Purchase our mirror and join us!” Others were blowing tiny flutes.

A unique piece of classical art, Monte thought, even though the mirror hung among many copies of itself on the rack. He had thrown many other modern day artifacts into the cart: a print of a shiny ’57 Chevy; a Nelly CD; a gold color neck chain; a silver color crucifix; etc. But, unlike the mirror, such artifacts could be excavated in any store. This mirror was nearly priceless compared to the many other items sold in chain stores such as Wallace’s Bazaar. Monte thought to himself, Ancient Greece and Rome, the Golden Age of Culture, right on my bedroom wall! Wouldn’t this be neat for Grace and I to wake up to, where we can actually see ourselves having sex! Better yet, he would hang it up on the ceiling directly above the bed. Then he realized that it would be just another charge to the utility account. But he so often doubted his own sexual performance even though he had had sex with Grace several times before. He smiled and thought to himself, as the old saying goes, mirrors never tell lies!

He said to the clerk, “Actually, I’d like to add another item.” The clerk told him to bring it to the counter. Monte walked over to the rack of classical mirrors and examined each closely. He loved classical art, and so he wanted to make sure he selected the one that looked to be the perfect replica of the original. But they all looked perfect, and he knew, with a sudden dissatisfaction that the original was lost among the infinite factory produced replicas somewhere either among or beyond the Wallace’s Bazaar chain. So he reluctantly grabbed a copy at random. Yet, his reluctant feeling was soothed by the re-occurring thought that within and under that mirror there would be romantic sex with Grace that night.

The only thing that did not have replicas within that department (although there were copies of it elsewhere throughout the store) was the giant photo portrait of the mega store’s founder, Narcissus Wallace. It hung on the stand-alone wall behind the counter. It portrayed the founder with an inhuman wide grin, a thick but precisely trimmed mustache, a peach colored face, and light brown hair parted to one side in the typical corporate executive’s style. Monte read the gold shiny commemoration tag at the bottom of the photo. The tag bore the founder’s name and, directly underneath the name, the date of his life span: “1949- “. He must have still been living. Monte had seen copies of that same portrait throughout the store, particularly on the pillar or the stand-alone wall in back of the customer service counter in each department. He also remembered seeing a copy looming in between two sets of double doors inside the entry way as he had walked into the store. However, he suddenly realized that that particularly copy seemed not to have quite the same facial expression as the one he was now examining. The facial expression of the portrait in the entry way was more of a smile of customer hospitality. The expression of the one here seemed to indicate that the founder was making sure he was providing his customers 100% satisfaction with their purchases. Yet it was an expression that consisted of a devious, “friendly” grin and a gaze of total self ambition which seemed to stab right into Monte’s soul.

After the clerk had rung up Monte’s items, and after Monte slid his card through the machine, he signed his life over to the store on the credit receipt and asked the clerk, “How do I get out of here?”

The clerk glared at him for several seconds before saying, “Any direction will take you where you want to go.”

Monte clarified, “So there’s an entrance on all sides of the store?”

The clerk nodded with a blank expression. Then he seemed to force a smile saying, “Have a nice day, sir.”

Monte pushed his loot in a direction he randomly chose because he could not remember the direction he came from. But it did not matter to him anymore since he felt more assured by an employee of the store that there was an entrance on all sides of the building.

However, by the time he rolled his cart into the glove department, he knew he had to have passed at least twenty other departments ever since he paid for his stuff. Now he was growing angry. He had to get home to meet his girlfriend and show her that mirror. Although he did not have the smallest hint of what the time was, he knew Grace must have been waiting for him at the house by now. She was far more patient than he, but for sure she was by now irritated and wondering where he was at. But the gloves would not let him go. First, they mockingly waved at him. Then they grabbed him. He realized that everything he had bought at Wallace’s Bazaar was for himself. The exception was the mirror, but he would be hanging that up in the bedroom of his house. He had bought nothing for Grace. He had never forgotten to buy at least one thing exclusively for her anytime he went shopping. For some reason, the abundance of discounted treasure in this new mega store made him forget about, as much as he had a hard time believing it, Grace. Grace who was as central to his life as the Lady of Fatima was as central to many of his old Portuguese relatives’ lives on his ancestral islands of Pico and Sao Jorge. Grace who was a rare living artifact because she wore the artifacts of the 1960s and 70s, yet artifacts that looked as though they came straight from the manufacturer. Because of this she was not the current Hollywood corporate reproduction that most girls were. Grace was not of this time or culture. A girl like Grace was the only thing he had wanted that nobody else had. If he had never met her, he would be suffering eternal loneliness even if while going with any of his former girlfriends with their celebrity model bodies and in-style clothes.

He selected one of the pairs of bright, pink gloves since Grace loved the color because it was fashionable in the 60s. However, as he reached to grab the gloves, the gloves suddenly grabbed him instead. For some reason, he felt that, even though he was now buying solely for Grace, he was buying for himself alone. He found these gloves attractive because they reminded him of the pink, tight turtlenecks, the pink tight slacks, the pink miniskirts and tights, and other such pink clothes Grace would wear more than any of her clothes of other colors. He thought, well maybe if I get her a color only she likes . . . But he still liked the pink gloves. Besides, he could not think of a color that she desired that he did not. So he bought gloves in every available color. There were over 20 colors. All those gloves laid their slim selves on his blubbery hand that reached out for them as though they were unifying in agreement to a common goal, that goal being to please Grace and therefore to please Monte. He charged them to his card at the department’s customer service booth. After doing so, he asked the girl with the dark complexion who had rung up his purchases how much further it was to the entrance. The female clerk said, in an annoyed manner much like that of the clerk’s in the mirror department, “Any direction you take you’ll find an entrance.”

Monte complained, “I know, but that’s not what I’m asking. What I’m asking is how much longer until I get to it.”

The clerk suggested, after hesitating several seconds, “Just keep walking.”
Annoyed, Monte asked while pointing to the direction he thought he had been walking in before he came to the glove department, “That way?”

The girl said, “Any direction. It all leads to the same place. And as far as your question about how much further it is, I don’t know. Once you’ve been working here practically forever, you forget how many shelves, racks or sections are from such and such point. Our main job here as far as direction goes is to point you in the direction of the department or section of the item you’re looking for. Like I said, if you just keep walking you’ll find an entrance.”

Her words sounded very promising, yet futile. He then asked impatiently, “All right, what time is it then?”

The girl shrugged, saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t’ have a watch.”

Frustrated, Monte tilted back his cart rotating it toward the direction he thought he remembered himself walking in. The cart’s front banged back down onto the carpet causing its metal spindles to ring like the slamming of a thousand jail cell doors. Monte shoved it away. The girl suggestively called to him, “Check with the people in the watch and clock department; it’s only a few aisles ahead.” He suddenly noticed several pairs of gloves on top of the shelves to both sides of him, all of them standing in a militant row, pointing their index fingers in the direction he was heading.

He had also noticed the copy of the portrait of Narcissus Wallace hanging up on the stand-alone wall behind the service counter. However, this particular copy portrayed the founder grinning and gazing with intentional mockery, rather than with façade friendliness or self ambition as the one hanging in the mirror department had. For a reason he was not sure of, Monte wanted to smash the one in the glove department. He felt like the founder himself was keeping him from Grace. But he knew that was impossible; the founder had never even seen him or Grace before.

#

After several departments and aisles, he finally arrived at the watch and clocks department. The repetitive ticking of a multitude of time devices was continuously sounding both simultaneously as well as at different intervals. Replicas of various makes of digital watches and clocks silently blinked on their minutes and seconds. Monte looked at one of the hand clocks that hung on the customer service booth’s stand-alone wall. It pointed out three o’clock. However, he knew it could not be right; although he could not remember what time he entered the store, he knew he had been inside it way past three. He checked the next clock down, a duplicate of the first one. It pointed out 5:40, which seemed to be more correct, but when he glanced at the other nearby clocks, digital and hand, they each read a remotely different time. He looked at the watches in the glass case. Same thing. Then a young Asian Indian looking woman asked in a very friendly manner, “May I help you find something today, sir?”

Monte stared at her in disbelief. But then he burst out a slight smile of delight saying, “Today? You mean it’s still daylight out?”

The woman said, looking confused, “Excuse me?”

Monte clarified, “What time is it? I can see your clocks here are display only.” He was feeling a bit of hope that it was not as late as he originally feared.

The woman said, “Oh, yes! Would you like to look at any of them?”

Monte said, “I already have all the clocks I need. I’m just interested in the time.”

The woman stated suggestively, “But you don’t have a watch. Because if you did, you would not be asking me the time now, would you?”

Monte felt trapped. He struggled to say, “I, uh, spent just about everything I could for today,” and gestured his hand toward his cart. In actuality, however, he was eager for a watch. He had just noticed the tiny crow’s feet on the woman’s otherwise smooth brown face. She was older than she originally looked, perhaps right on the edge of middle age. So it suddenly occurred to him that not only did he not have cash, but he did not have time. Even though he worked with the world’s money behind a counter in a bank several days a week, he never had enough cash. But now he was aware that he did not have enough time either. He did not have enough time to buy all the items of culture that he wanted, nor would he have enough time to have sex with Grace under the mirror that he was trying to get home; he had already turned twenty-one several days ago.

(To be continuted . . . )