October Penn Cove Literary Arts Award Submission

Congratulations to Stephen Stanley of Eugene, Oregon, the recipient of the October Penn Cove Literary Arts Award.

Mask of the Monster
Stephen R. Stanley

From me hidey-hole me peeked squinty-eyed at the tasty wee bloodbags as they scurried about dressed in holiday finery. Me tusk banged on the damp stone wall when me tried to get a better peek through the cracks. Smacking me slippery lips, me wished for a chance to snap up a few of them human pups. Oh, such a display of fresh food, stuffed full of sugar and wiggly excitement. Me wiped me slimy mouth on the back of me hairy arm, then thumped the stone wall and wailed a moan of hunger.

Me would thump them all, me would, if they wouldn’t scatter like spooked bunnies when they got wind of me. No fair, them dainty morsels running around unsupervised on the first night of the new year with me stuck in me dank hidey-hole slobbering for tender knucklebones.

Me a smart boogie, me is. Me figured out a plan right then and there. If tiny humans could run around wild in the dark dressed up as me kith and kin, well then by Satan’s Sulfurous Broken Wind, a boogie could do likewise.

Me crawled up through me secret dirt tunnel and set out looking for a proper disguise.

At the mouth of the alley me happened upon a sweet-smelling sugar lump what was perfect in her flouncey pink regalia. Me squeezed between two odoriferous dumpsters and rumbled me most terrible growl.

“Sweet” was what the delectable little creature squeaked in return. “That’s a tight Boogie Man costume.”

“Gimme yer face!” Me said. Me lunged for the wee tyke, but she dodged and thumped me soundly on me snout.

“Ouch,” me said.

“Let’s trade,” she said. “I’ll take your face then you can borrow mine.”

Oh, me should have thought deeper. Me might be a smart boogie, but me ain’t wise. And me was hungry for sugar-stuffed snackins. Afore me could jiggle me noggin in agreement, she reached up quicker than a faery tax collector and tore off me mug.

“Ouch,” me said again, with a bit more emphasis.

“Here,” she said as she tossed her girlie countenance into me fumbling claws. “I’ll haul in oodles of candy with this bad boy.” She looked rather fetching with me handsome visage atop her lacy royal gown.

She ran a few steps toward the beckoning promises of glowing jack o’lanterns, then turned. “Bring my face back here in an hour, or my big brother will poop his cargo shorts.”

She raced toward her destiny with bloated calories, her pink tongue wagging between me lovely yellow tusks.

After slapping her cuteness on to me headbone, me rubbed me crusty mitts together in eager anticipation of feasting on plump trickertreaters. Me snatched a bacon-greased shopping bag out of a garbage can, then shambled off to find kiddy sweetmeat to gobble.

Oh, if only me hadn’t been so hungry.

Me leaped out of the dark, howling fearful, and grabbed for a crowd of pudgy snacks. They squealed and darted away like them bunnies. Then the mob — dressed as pirates and vampires, pixies and storybook royalty, undead celebrities and long-forgotten deities — surrounded me, confounded me, pushed me afore them, up a stoop of stairs, their shrill shrieks piercing me delicate ear openings, until me was poked and prodded and commanded to thump a button what rang a bell.

When the door opened the whole mass of snarling, rabid, confection-crazed children screamed such a cacophony as to deafen hell’s own hounds and demanded candy, candy, candy or else suffer the retribution of outraged delinquents. The fear in the eyes of the poor wretch what doled out the booty to this pack of relentless beggars chilled me evil bones. His gaze beseeched me to end his purgatory; he would welcome any carnage me would inflict — to him or his sticky-fingered tormentors — anything to end the unholy appeasement ritual of these ravenous beasts. He flung the plastic wrapped candy packages into the outstretched, engorged sacks and retreated behind the safety of his barred door. He trembled there, me was sure of it, quaking in fearful expectation of wave after squealing wave of unquenchable candy lust.

The ocean of greed pushed and tugged me along with the bickering horde of slavering, sugar-infused hooligans. Among the frost-dusted pumpkins they trooped house to house, extracting worship, tribute, and adoration for their cute gluttony.

Me feared for me feeble soul and me sanity.

Me escaped to huddle, sniveling like a beaten cur, in the squalid alley for the eternity that remained until the foul pink critter returned with me lovely kisser.

The child appeared in a cloud of chocolate fumes. She snitched her pinkish face and tossed me mug in the scum at me feet. With palsied claws me patted it back into place on me skullbone. Smeared sticky, it smelled of sugar and spice and artificial flavors and colors so unnatural they tasted bitter like ancient potions. Me gagged on the cloying stink of everything nice.

Me wanted to slink away, but afore me could commence to slinking, she snagged me grease-stained shopping bag.

“What’d you get?” she asked.

Me whined.

“Hand it over.” She dumped me meager takings into a bag what held thrice her weight in sugarloot.

Then she kicked me ragged behind as me slunk as best me could slink off into the welcoming dark of me hidey-hole.

“You call yourself a Boogie Man?” She taunted after me. “Get a clue, Wussie Man.”

Her hideous giggle will haunt me the rest of me sleepless days.

The End

November News for 2014

October, for most of us, chilled nicely towards the end and already it’s the third of November. There have been a number of enjoyable reads this last month and this editor is taking his time to pick the right one, even to the point of asking for opinions from others.

Wednesday, November 5th, I’ll announce the October Penn Cove Literary Arts Award recipient. Until then, quit reading this and get back to the chair!

editor bob

October News for 2014

Congratulations to Sarina Dorie of Eugene, Oregon, the September recipient for the Penn Cove Award.

Undressing Mr. Darcy
by Sarina Dorie

“It’ll be fun,” Val, said. She wanted me to come to a fashion workshop at her chapter of Romance Writers of America. “This is right up your Pride and Prejudice alley.”

The mention of my favorite book hooked me.

When we arrived, the meeting had already started. The only seats left in the community center’s room were in the front row. We squished in between two women in business suits.

I glanced at a handsome man sitting on the other side of the room. He wore suspenders and a bowler hat. His side-burns gave him an old-fashioned look, and I wondered if he was one of the presenters. He smiled when he caught me staring and tipped his hat at me.

When they introduced Mr. Darcy, I sat up. A man strode down the aisle, donning a top hat, cravat and frock coat. The model was tall and dark haired—exactly how I imagined my favorite Jane Austen character. The beauty of the costume made me want to drool.

Ms. Gardener, the presenter, wore a high-waisted gown similar to those I’d seen on Regency era book covers. I leaned forward with interest.

Ms. Gardener talked about costuming and the Jane Austen Society. My jaw dropped when the presenter undressed Mr. Darcy.

I’d read enough classical literature to know that a man without his frock coat was considered naked in the Regency era. Mrs. Gardener explained every nuance of his costume. I wasn’t sure which idea I fell in love with more: the idea of a gentleman—or the idea of a man dressed as a gentleman.

I grabbed Val’s elbow. “This is my dream come true.”

She put a finger to her lips. The man in suspenders and the bowler hat across the room must have heard because he raised an eyebrow.

As the layers came off Mr. Darcy, ladies in the audience waved their faces with their handouts. The presenter only undressed him down to his undergarments before she called for Mrs. Darcy. Mr. Darcy retired to the side room, while the presenter undressed the female model down to her chemise. I was riveted. I’d always wondered what these layers of clothes looked like. They were so fitted they were physically difficult to remove.

After the meeting, the models came out from the dressing room. Women flocked to the model who had been presented as Mr. Darcy. He now wore ripped jeans and a rock band shirt. He’d replaced his nose ring and wore his hair down. It wasn’t so much the modern attire, as much as the disdainful attitude he wore that made the illusion of Mr. Darcy fade. His laugh was obnoxiously loud and I was pretty sure I heard him curse in most ungentlemanly manner that would have made Elizabeth Bennet blush. That didn’t stop the gaggle of women who surrounded him. Then again, maybe his arrogance made him more authentically Darcy-esque for them.

I turned to tell Val how disappointed I was, but she stood talking to another woman. The let-down must have shown in my posture because a man said from behind me, “Can’t judge a book by its cover.”

The man in his bowler hat was packing a bag. He was tall and trim, and now that I was closer, I could see how refined and handsome his features were.

“Are you an author?” I asked.

He shook his head and laughed, his cheeks as round as apples. “No. I’m James, the tailor. That’s my work ‘Darcy’ modeled.”

Learning he was the one who had “created” Mr. Darcy was enough to make my heart skip a beat. Studying his more modest attire, I suspected he’d made that as well. He was a master of his craft.

“Your costumes are beautiful,” I said. “Do you make women’s clothing too? I have my heart set on a Regency wedding dress.”

His green eyes were intently fixed on my hand. “I don’t see a ring.”

I blushed. “Well, no. I’m not—I don’t have a boyfriend. I just want a dress that I could wear someday. . . .”

“I see you’re as smitten with Regency fashion as I am. The problem with period clothes is they’re meant to fit so well they’re impossible to put on yourself. That’s why you need servants. Authors never get the scenes right where people remove their clothes. Those laces, buttons, and hooks take time. Just like real life romance.” His eyes met mine.

We talked for so long about period fashion that I eventually noticed when our laughter filled the empty room. Val sat in a chair, a smirk on her face.

“Did you get his number?” she asked later.

“Better, I got a business card,” I said. Plus, an invitation to be fitted for a day dress to be modeled in a vintage fashion show.

Just over a year later, James did end up making my wedding dress, an empire-waisted gown with layers of petticoats underneath. And he was right. It did take assistance to put on—and to take off. Fortunately he helped with the latter on our wedding night.

The End

September New for 2014

August was a hot month for a lot of us — though the rains did flow!

No socks were knocked off but we’re still running about with no shoes.

Please keep submitting the award is still available/

August News for 2014

congratulations to Asha Azariah-Kribbs of Salisbury, Maryland, the July 2014 recipient of the Penn Cove Literary Arts Award.

Raison d’Être

A. Azariah-Kribbs

If you don’t fit in Anywhere, you will—

Somewhere.

We hear her before we see her.

She wheels herself into the light. Her hair hangs in a cropped wave across her face, hiding all but pale lips and chin. She is wearing a blue dress with bright ribbons, an old school Alice rolling through a Wonderland of acrylic stars and silk flowers. I can see her twisted ankles before her feet disappear into round flat shoes.

We weren’t expecting this.

After red noses and feather bellies, jugglers and dancing dogs, we don’t want to see a handicapped girl in a wheelchair. This is a prank in poor taste. She ought to stand. But she wheels herself to an electric keyboard, one of those faux pianos that depend on finger pressure instead of pedals.

There’s a swing a few yards away. It’s long metal, a low trapeze. She sits for a moment like she can almost see herself there.

She starts to play.

We feel sorry for her. She shouldn’t be here.

She should be—

The light changes.

She pauses. She doesn’t look up.

He is an angle of offstage shadow.

The overhead beam has startled him from his natural element. Skinny shape in paste makeup and deep lipstick, he turns on his heel like a puppet caught trying the live performers’ paints and liners. He moves jaggedly. Snapped strings.

The young woman strikes a key.

His head swings back, sharp.

Another chord.

She plays, soft and sad, bent low over her instrument.

He stumbles.

She plays.

He bends, biting his red lip. His palm rests flat in front of his toes. One lank leg, long, long, and thin, stretches perpendicular to the floor. The knee bends back. The hand lifts. His lean foot twists. It is a posture at once alien and uncomfortable. He holds it, his other hand moving now to trace out the silent rhythm of the music. His fingers hesitate as if they would hold some of the light that has surprised him. Single-legged, he looks like a scarecrow weathervane, arm extended, one heel under him and the other unwinding in slow and sinuous motion, to find the floor again.

The music stops.

He snaps up, alarmed.

She sees him.

Trembling, he falls on his knee.

She glances at the swing.

He feels that eagerness, that hope. He seizes it. He stands. He crosses to the swing and rests his sixteen-inch foot on that bar.

She laughs aloud.

The audience breathes. It’s alright.

It’s alright.

Is that all we wanted—to hear her laugh?

Her fingers move light over the keys. It is a tune fast and brave. The other covets it in himself like tinder wanting flame.

Some people don’t belong Anywhere.

They belong Nowhere.

He mounts the swing and stands an instant, poised, watching as we watch. He has forgotten us. That is the illusion of theatre—the white lie, of theatre. She directs him with nothing more than a song, and he follows, when he follows, as if he is her instrument, fluid and delicate as the motion of her hands. When he lifts his body and taxes those wire limbs over the motion of the bar beneath him, the effect is grotesque, and wildly beautiful.

Only in this twilight realm could these two be one in loneliness. Here, a broken wing can inspire two left feet to fly.

He alights; he is before her. He extends his hand with its slender, odd-jointed fingers to her face and tips her head back, soothing the bangs from her forehead.

We see her face.

She reaches for his sloping neck.

He lifts her.

Her useless legs hang on his knobby arm. He stumbles again, a little, not quite like before.

The light dims.

He goes to the swing.

Now she will move with him. Now, now she will prove to us all that she can stand. Perfect vibrancy, young energy and tender feeling, will pale our memories of brighter acts with all the ethereal beauty and twisted contortion of living art.

This is the white magic of theatre.

He settles. She leans on his shoulder.

They rock, slow, to the light motion of his stretched leg.

The curtain falls.

I had almost forgotten.

They don’t belong.

Not Anywhere