Ewan’s Bloody Shirt

Ewan looked in befuddled amazement as the old washerwoman held up a stick with a wet tangle of bloody tunics dripping from it.

“Here, lots of shirts from strapping young men, what’s been killed in the battle. My, look at this one! Why, isn’t this one yours?”

Ewan felt his blood go icy in his veins. He knew this, suddenly, to be a “Woman of the Night,” a ghost or Shee, bringing an omen of impending doom to himself.

Suddenly, the old woman came forward, her face squinting into a cruel mask.

“If thy darling wife should offer thee bread and cheese from her own hand, thou shalt avert thine own terrible doom. Otherwise, I shall be washing the blood from thy clothes…”

“Ewan of the Little Head” was the son of the Fifth Laird of Lochbuie (Iain Og), and was prompted by his termagant wife, known to history as the “Black Swan” (But, the reader will ask him or herself, “What is in a name?”) to press his father for his rightful portion as a Chief of the MacLaines. (As you might have guessed, we’re in Scotland.)

This was premature, and Lain Og refused him, enraging his son and causing him to erupt in a tirade of petty vengeance. Lain Og, to his credit, was having none of it, and told his insolent, petty brat that if he should like to meet his own army on the field of battle, well, then, by all means…

The whole thing started as a result of the dissatisfaction of the Swan to her husband’s paltry, uncomfortable estate. Where it would end was destruction and bloodshed.

To wit:

The morning of the battle, Ewan MacLaine arose before dawn, going out to the court where he was met by a strange washerwoman.

A bent-over old crone, with a warty nose and green complexion, we might imagine. She was washing bloody clothes. He then recognized his own shirt in the tub. He felt his blood go icy, for he now knew this to be an omen of impending doom. He was told by the Shee, the supernatural washerwoman, that, should his young wife, the “Swan,” offer him bread and cheese by her own hand, he might live. Otherwise–

Returning home, he was dismayed to find that he was offered no such morning repast.

His horse galloped past the great outcropping of rock. Ewan, despite the dire vision of hours earlier, was elated that his men seemed to be winning the battle. He brought his horse to halt for a moment, letting the animal catch its breath. It was then he heard a scuffling above him.

“Aieee!” came a terrible cry, as the shadow of a headsman’s axe fell across Ewan’s forehead. He reached instinctively for his sword, but it was too late.
His head was carried home by victorious soldiers atop a pike.
A black mare gallops past the doomed, crumbling walls of Duart castle. The peasant gardener feels his blood grow chill to see it, as it disappears into a roiling, mysterious cloud of foggy haze. Tall and lean, dressed entirely in black, the phantom rider bodes ill, he knows, for the Chief of the MacLaines–as it always has. It is “Ewan of the Little Head”; or, rather his ghost, come round to haunt the grounds of this ancient dwelling, and foretell of an impending doom come to the family, as a curse. But, the peasant reflects, this name of the “Little Head” was intriguing–maybe even comical. For, you see, the phantom rider hadn’t any head at all!


Clever Elsie

Once, there was a man with a very foolish young daughter, whom everyone, out of mockery, called Clever Elsie. Her father, grimly determined to marry her off, invited a neighbor boy, Hans, to have dinner with them. He sincerely hoped that Hans would take a liking to Clever Elsie, and ask for her hand.

“Well,” Hans told them, “If Clever Elsie is not really clever, I wont have her.”

And the parents thus assured him, “Oh, she is so clever, our Elsie! Why, she can see the wind coming up the street, and hear the flies coughing.”

Unconvinced, the young man came to dinner anyway. Seating himself at the table, he turned a wary eye to Clever Elsie, and drank quite a lot of beer in the bargain. Wanting some more, he held out his cup, to which the mother said, “Elsie, dear, go down into the cellar and fetch Hans another cup of beer from the keg down there.”

Elsie went to do as she was told. Funny to say, though, as she filled up the cup her eyes cast about out of boredom, and by chance they happened to fall upon the pick-axe that was hung, ceremoniously, from the wall above.

Suddenly, a terrible thought occurred to her.

“If Hans and I are married and have a child, when he comes down here to fetch some beer, that pickaxe may fall from the wall, and injure or even kill him.

Oh, how terrible that would be!”

And with that, she began to weep.

It was not many minutes hence that Elsie’s father, suspecting something was amiss, told the maid, “Go down and see what is keeping Elsie!”

And so the maid went downstairs, and, seeing the girl blubbering and balling, asked her what was the matter.

“Oh,” exclaimed Elsie, “if I get Hans, we may have a child, and when he comes down here for beer, he may be injured by that pickaxe, which may fall from the wall…”

To this the maid replied, “Oh what a Clever Elsie we’ve got!’ Then she sat down beside her, and began to wail as well.

Well, Elsie’s father and mother began to wonder what had happened to the other two, so they sent the son down into the cellar. Upon seeing the two women crying loudly, he asked them why on earth they were so distraught.

To this Elsie once again said, “If I get Hans, we will have a child who will have to come down here to fetch the beer. If he is standing here and the pickaxe on yonder wall slips and falls, he could be badly hurt or killed!”

And Elsie’s brother said, “My, what a clever Elsie we have!” and sat down, and began to weep as well.

Well, by now the father, as well as Hans, were getting quite upset for their lack of beer. He told his wife, “Go downstairs and see what’s keeping them.

We’re both thirsty, and the dinner is getting cold!”

And so Elsie’s mother went downstairs, and was shocked to see the three crying. When she asked why they were crying so, Elsie once again said, “Oh, Mother! It s so sad! If I get Hans, we may have a child who will have to come down here for beer. If he is standing here and the pickaxe falls from the wall, he will be injured or killed!”

And the mother, who hadn’t before thought of this, exclaimed, holding her hands to her cheeks, “My, what a clever Elsie we have!” And with that, she sat down beside the others and began to weep as loudly as they did.

Finally, after some minutes, the father, throwing down his napkin in disgust, told Hans, “I am going down there to see what is going on! I’ll be right back!”

And with that, he got up from his seat, and, going down to the cellar, saw the others crying. He asked, of course, why the four loonies were behaving so badly, and Elsie said…

(You already know the rest, we assume.)

Hans, twisting and squirming uncomfortably in his seat, could hear that there was some sort of commotion going on down in the cellar, but he had no idea what it was exactly. It almost sounded, egad! like weeping?

He finally decided to go down and investigate for himself. He went down into the dark, dank cellar, and there found the whole family and the maid, weeping their eyes out. When he asked, quite curiously, why they were weeping so, Elsie said, “Oh Hans! It is so sad! If I get you, we may have a child, and that child will surely have to come down here to fetch the beer for Father. If he is standing here, and the pickaxe falls, well…”

And she let out a great blubbering sob. Hans was struck dumb by surprise, but shortly said, “This is all I need for my household. Come, I will make you my wife!”

And so the two were married.

One day, Hans said, “I am going out to earn us some money. Go into the field and cut the corn, so that we may have some bread.”

And with that, he left. Clever Elsie fixed her some broth, and, taking it out to the field, decided that she would certainly have to eat before she did anything. And so she ate.

Then she said to herself, “Should I cut first, or sleep first? Oh, I’ll sleep first!”

And, feeling tired, she lay down amongst the corn, and fell fast asleep.

Later that night, Hans returned home, and said to himself, “Oh, what a clever Elsie I’ve got! She hasn’t even come home from the field, she is so busy cutting. I will go and fetch her!”

Hans was no doubt surprised to find his wife fast-asleep in the field, with no sign she had cut anything at all. Angered greatly, he went and fetched an old fowlers’ net that had little bells attached to it, and slipped it on her sleeping form. Then he departed for home.

Soon, when it was quite dark, Clever Elsie awoke, and, getting up, hearing the tinkling of the bells, became quite concerned.

“How unusual. I wonder: Is it I? Or is it not I?”

She had no idea, so she rushed home and knocked frantically at the door. Hans, inside bent over his workbench, called out, “Yes! What do you want?”

To which Elsie answered, “Oh Hans! Is Elsie in there with you?”

Hans answered, “Yes!”

Elsie’s hands flew to her head in terror and shock.

“Then it is NOT I!” she exclaimed, and raced home to her parents. However, hearing the weird tinkling of the bells, her parents were afraid, and refused to let her enter.

Clever Elsie then ran away in shame.

And she was never seen in the village again. Never. Not ever.

Mother Holle

Once upon a time, there was a wicked old woman, a widow, who lived with her two daughters, one of whom was noble and good, the other being lazy and indolent.

The wicked woman, naturally, doted on her lazy daughter, as this was her natural daughter, and not simply the daughter of her late husband from a previous marriage.

Every day the wicked stepmother made the poor girl go out to fetch the water, do all the chores, and spin flax to boot. One morning, when the daughter was gone to fetch the water, she, quite by accident, managed to drop her spinner into the well. At this, the girl ran home crying. But, do you expect she got any sympathy for her plight? Not a bit of it.

“You ignoramus!” spat the cruel stepmother (at least, she spat something that approximated this), “now you must go and jump in the well and retrieve your spinner!” And the stepmother put her arm out and pointed out the door; and, weeping the young miss went to do as she was told.

Terrified, she jumped in the dark, dank well. However, she was amazed and astounded when, much to her surprise, she didn’t drown in the bottom of the well, but instead fell until she fell down upon the side of a hillock in a strange, upside-down land.

“Oh, where am I?” she asked herself, rubbing her bruised bottom as she crept carefully through the meadow, which was quite beautiful and covered with thousands of bright flowers.

Soon, she came to a huge oven, wherein the loaves of bread cried out to her, “Oh, mercy, take us out of here, for we have been baked long enough!” And so, carefully taking up the bread shovel, the young maiden took the loaves out of the oven, setting them in a careful pile.

She was then on her way. She soon came to an apple tree, the likes of which was bursting with tremendous apples larger than any she had ever before seen. The apples cried out, “Oh! pluck us! For we have hung here long enough, and are ready to burst!”

So, taking pity upon the apples, she carefully began to pluck them one by one from the branches, until she had before her a pile she could set aside. Then, tired, but too curious to rest, she was once again on her way.

After a short amount of time she came to a strange cottage. Knocking at the door, she was terrified to see the ugliest old woman she had ever seen in her life come to the door. The woman had tremendous tusk-like teeth, and the poor young maiden was so terrified she almost ran away. She could tell by the kindly look in the old woman’s eyes though, that she was not going to hurt her.

“Well, miss, it seems that fate has brought you to my door step. Now, you may stay here as long as you like, if you will simply do your chores. Also, make sure you shake the feathers out of my pillow every morning, as then it will be sure to snow. Got that?”

And she nodded yes. Well, this good, honest, hardworking girl worked hard, and cleaned, and cooked, and took care of Mother Holle, and turned down the covers, and scrubbed the tub, and cleaned out the oven, and baked the bread, and shook the feathers out of the pillows, so that it would snow.

And she was most content to do it all, as Mother Holle, despite her odd appearance, was very kind, and treated her to a sumptuous feast and all the fun she could handle.

Well, things went on like this for awhile, until, one day the girl, looking out on the lonely forest wherein Mother Holle resided, began to feel homesick.

Mother Holle, sensing this, said, “Child, I suppose it is high time you had better be sent home. But, before you go, I want to give you your reward for being such a good and faithful servant.”

And Mother Holle pushed her out the door. But, before she could go, she covered her with a bucket of gold dust, so that she was completely covered in the valuable stuff. Then she sent her on her way, closing the door in an instant.

The gold-covered girl wandered out of the magical forest, buck up the mouth of the old well, and home again. As she approached, the hens began to sing and cluck, “Cock-a-doodle-doo, your golden girl has come back to you!”

When her stepmother at first saw her she was very frightened, for the girl had been missing a long time and was presumed dead. Then, when she saw the fine gold flakes stuck to her skin, she became envious.

She told her lazy, stupid daughter, “Go to this Mother Holle, who lives down the mouth of the old well, and see if you can be her servant for a time. Then, thou shalt have thine own reward like unto thy sister!”

So the stupid, lazy girl did just that. She went to the old well, and pricked her finger exactly as her sister had done on the spinner. Then, she let a few drops of blood fall into the water, and dove down the mouth of the well.

She soon found herself in the upside-down enchanted land, wandering through the strange, dark forest, until she came to the ovens wherein the helpless bread screamed, “Oh, mercy, take us out of here, for we have baked long enough!”

And the lazy girl would have been only too happy to oblige. Except it seemed like an awful lot of work to bend over and take the brad from the ovens, and might make her frightfully hot and dirty to boot. So she simply passed on by, and listened to the dying screams of the bread loaves as they were baked to a crisp.

Next she came to the apple tree, where the overripe apples were hanging from their stems. The apples cried out to her, “Oh, pluck us! For we have hung here long enough, and are ready to burst!”

And the lazy, stupid girl would have obliged, except, well…plucking the apples so high up in the tree seemed like quite an awful lot of work, and she might fall and hurt herself, and become dirty and tired to boot. So she simply walked past the tree, listening to the apples scream as they burst from becoming too ripe.

Soon, she came to the strange cottage of Mother Holle. At first she was frightened when Mother Holle opened the door, as she had never seen anyone with teeth quite so big. But then she remembered that Mother Holle was supposed to be very kind, and this allayed her fears.

“Well, missy, it seems that fate has brought you to my door step. Now, you may stay here as long as you like, if you will simply do your chores. Also, make sure you shake the feathers out of my pillow every morning, as then it will be sure to snow. Got that?”

And the lazy, stupid girl agreed to do it all.

At first, she was careful to do her chores exactly as Mother Holle had said, and she worked diligently at everything. It was not long, however, before the lazy, stupid nature began to reassert itself, and she started slacking off work, disobeying, and not doing what she was told.

Soon, Mother Holle tired of this. She said to her, “Now, I am going to send you back home, as you must be very homesick by now!”

“Oh yes,” cried the lazy, stupid girl. “But, what about my reward?”

And Mother Holle said, “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll get exactly what is coming to you!”

And with that, she shoved her out the door, but before she could go, she emptied a bucket of pitch over her head, and laughed. Mother Holle said, “That is your reward, dearie! Wear it well! Wear it well! It really suits you!”

And she slammed the door and never came out again.

Well, the stupid, lazy girl, who was now quite covered with pitch, found her way back to her own home from out the magic portal. And, at her coming, the hens began to cluck, saying:

“Cock-a-doodle-doo, your pitchy girl’s come back to you!”

And, no matter how hard they scrubbed, they could not got the layer of pitch off of the lazy daughter, who was forced to go abotu that way until the day she died.

California (Is Weeping Tonight)

The Harelip was lying on his bunk, dozing in and out when I came into the room. The lights were off, with only the moon illuminating his physical ugliness from a shaft of light penetrating the grimy window. I was carrying my notebook. He suddenly leaned forward on his pillow as I pattered in. “California is weeping tonight,” he mumbled, incoherently, before the words were drowned out by additional snores. California is weeping tonight, I said to myself. CALIFORNIA…is weeping tonight. What, was there a wild fire? His hypnogogic babbling took on wide, eerie, cryptic significance. I sat down, and in the darkness I wrote: “California is weeping tonight,” in my notebook. And then I wrote: “AND SO AM I.”

It is Snowing Thinly in the Yard

it is snowing thinly in the yard.

Go in the door, and the place is large and cavernous, haunted, and only the television in the back room seems to be working. I hear a bitchy voice, outside, which is “Emily”; and I know she has come to scrounge or scavenge, just as I. Out front, it is muddy, and Granpa sits in a little scoot-chair, pointing to an airplane up in the sky. It is suddenly 1917, and he has regressed to the point of infancy. In the yard, over a puddle, a gaggle of women surround a dispatch runner trying to fix a motorbike. He has on a flight cap, goggles, is extremely thin, and possesses three amazing tusk-like front teeth–could almost be false. Actually, most likely they are.

Then, on the set of Ken Russell’s Gothic. Sitting with the cast in a castle room, and someone somewhere in a room beyond, a ruined room, is weeping. I say “that one annoys me” to the assembled, but move forward through space and who knows time with my drawing pad.

And begin to draw, and even the mountains look good and natural as I move into a new technique.

And it is a weeping woman ULALUME, “La Llorona,” I suppose. But next, we have the Monster laid out on his surgery table, and a whorish slut walks like slippery dung from a duck’s ass down the length of the table; and I think, “Russell’s camera captures everything organically, making no value judgments as it pulls back and lets her slow-motion saunter sexily slide (she is wearing white hose, panties and garter, and what seems a sweater, with flowing curls and not much else) down the length and breadth of the viewers subconscious.” Russell.

Lastly, at a counter in a dimly-lit area of the villa that is, apparently, a sort of modern clinic. Shelley tosses a burning fireball at me, who am Renfield, and I slap it back as Byron, a hulking, cloth-masked character who is playing at being the Monster chases me into a waiting lavatory and I awake thinking of the “Ode to Joy” and Carl Panzram. The End.

The Other, Other (Other) White Meat

In the ancient Greek story of Tantalus, the ancient Greek Tantalus invited all the ancient Greek gods to what, we must assume, was a dinner comprised of dishes eaten exclusively by ancient Greeks. because he was full of piss and vinegar (or, to be more literary perhaps, what Poe would signify as the “Imp of the Perverse”), the merry jokester killed, cooked and served his little son Pelops to his guests. (By comparison, the hairy Hebraic patriarch Abraham, in the Old Testament, was instructed by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. He was finally stopped by a visiting angel and invited to sacrifice a goat instead…Actually, that is probably not a relevant comparison.)

The Gods themselves would taste none of what they knew, intuitively, was a hideous cannibal repast. All save for Deter, whose daughter Persephone was being held captive in Hades by Hades. Or maybe they actually called the realm Tartarus, perchance. I’m not certain.

Demeter was so preoccupied in her vast grief that she nibbled a little bit of the ill-starred Pelops’ arm. Zeus, so enraged at this effrontery, decided he must punish Tantalus in a rather maddeninlgy surreal fashion.

Confined to an eternity in Hell, Tantalus was suspended above a body of water that would, forever, recede just out of reach before he could slake his thirst.
Above him, succulent fruit would grow from a tree, always just out of his reach, so that he might stare at it, smell it, and hunger after it, forever and ever–and yet never be able to grab it and assuage his grumbling, cannibalistic tummy.

But, the fellow did cook and serve his own son for dinner, you will say. What sort of punishment would be fitting for such an abominable, atrocious crime?

“Served him Right!”
Katherine Knight of Sydney, Australia, was jailed in Oct 2001. Why? you might ask. Well, Kathy, who worked as a laborer at a slaughterhouse, was a wee bit upset with her boyfriend, a drug addict that wanted out of the relationship out of a sense of, apparent, domestic terror stemming from his violent mama-san.

After calmly explaining herself via a home video recording, Katherine departed to her boyfriend’s bungalow and, finding his passed-out due to overdosing, perhaps conveniently, on junk, chopped off his head and various other needed appendages. She then flayed the luckless sonofabitch and hung his skin in the hall.

She then prepared three bowls of hot and spicy daddy soup for his three unsuspecting chilluns…

It is said that the investigating officers, some of them, were in “mandatory therapy.”

Not the first occurrence of this sort of thing, of course. A schizophrenic killer named Radzkowski cooked and served pieces of a girlfriend to homeless vagrants in Central Park, NYC. He commented, ‘”It tastes pretty good!”

He served her RIGHT, one supposes.

Now, we’re off for a bit of a nosh.

Bon appetit!

(Source: “True Vampires” by Sondra London)

The Cat’s Meow

There’s no accounting for taste, apparently. Not to a hungry four-year-old boy, such as young Robert Radu of Comanesti, Romania.

When the tender tyke took ill, it didn’t take long for Mama to figure out what, precisely, had left him with a bellyache. Note to readers: you won’t like the mental image.

Of the family feline she frankly found fur, and finally a few funny femurs. (Do cats have femurs? Not certain, but we wanted so very, very badly to continue our alliteration. Alas, no dice. We make no bones about our literary shortcomings.)

She found some kitty remains, to put it succinctly.

The doctors didn’t believe her until they pumped the nauseated lad’s little tummy. Yes, indeed, they agreed, he had swallowed the family pet in an orgy of cruel and sadistic bloodletting. (We must assume most other children would have been sated with peanut butter and jelly.)

He left behind only the fur and bones.

Addendum: We were tempted, for the sake of humor, to name this little snippet after a common vulgarity involving the double entendre of a soft, furry kitty being eaten, and a particular sexual practice. In short, we almost titled it: “Eating a Little…”

Oh, nevermind.

(Source: “True Vampires” by Sondra London)