SHELDON LEE COMPTON: In 50 words or less please explain Bob Evan’s restaurant to my alien friend Charlie. By the way, he faints when you reference food in any way at all.
MEG TUITE: “Get up, Charlie, croon to the smelling-salts of sausage! History churns through sizzling cud. Ohio, 1944: Bob writhes when Jewell blings his deep pocket ears, a plaid-eyed fellow-wagging-tongue bleeding into packaged sweat of the national H- hall of fame: halitosis, heart-attack, hemorrhoids, humdingers. Charlie, wake-up! Mornings swoon to marry Bob.
SLC: There’s a new movie about Elvis. If Elvis were alive and making movies, what kind of movie would he make? Why? Give me the basic plot for that while you’re at it. Oh, and it can’t be about music.
MT: Elvis: Why would you construct a slow-suicide when the colonel was enough?
Documentary of the early days when Elvis hid in his attic sewing costumes, wrapped the weekdays into Mom’s girdle, wriggled his tender tush-cake into bridal gardenias. Twitch-hips extracted the sweat out of Mom’s lipless grin. She wonders if brunette is her landscape until Elvis screams when she wakes him with dyed black tresses. “Get out witch! Where’s Mama?”
Colonel dresses up as Queen Elizabeth late nights after they boogie with the brood. Pinks, blues, yellows pastel wisps over blonde wigs. He flourishes high tea with cucumber sandwiches for his compatriots who file in wearing the colors of wedding cakes and layers of lace.
Elvis rakes through arrivals and departures: barbiturates and Quaaludes. Enough with the travel. Dizzy and rapscallionesque, his bling raptures deep into the waters of the South.
The final scene wavers between the Colonel’s walk-in closet filled with feathers and fluff, back to Elvis and Mother retrenching into the swamps of gilded reputations and twang.
SLC: Once upon a time…finish this using Jason Vorhees, Bozo, and Hank.
MT: Once upon a time there was never a once. Jason, Bozo, and Hank met every Tuesday for brunch at IHOP before heading over to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Jason had it out for Tom Cruise after losing the role in Mummy to a stunted Scientologist who failed every Science class he took and cried through horror films, the weenie. Bozo was saddened by the state of the clown and what his profession had barreled into after the serial killer, John Wayne Gacy, had blasphemed the art of make-up and slapstick for a fat clown pasted over every tabloid with corpses pulled out of the wreckage of his Chicago bungalow. And Hank, I mean, who the hell would have guessed Elvis would have shook his skivvies all over the glossy’s while Hank, in his honorable hat and cool ass suits, was stomped on by bikini beach bunnies all shake-and-bake shimmy sand nobody’s trawled around the grease-headed blackguard with no regard for the parade of blues singers and country/western driven geniuses who rerouted an entire genre.
So, there they were at the wax museum, with their flasks, staring at the likeness of each particular nemesis. The guards knew them well and sidled up nearby. Hank was the only one with a wax image of himself, but had been waxed on a bad hair day and was rankled every time he looked at it.
Bozo, in full-regalia with an added fat suit, gave Hank a brown sharpie and started talking up the guards about how he came to find his victims. Jason had an LED fog machine that raged out hot pink among thirteen colors in his backpack. He let it rip. Hank recolored his hair on wax.
Bozo stabbed the sad, fat clown who started to deflate. Jason smacked the smirk off Cruise, yet the smirk kept rebounding back.
They looked at one another and nodded. It was time.
Jason, Bozo, and Hank picked up the pseudo-legends, slung them over their shoulders. Alarms blazoned through the building. Bozo knocked over Elizabeth Taylor on his way out just for the hell of it. The trio raged for the back door. They’d already been chased every day of their lives by wives, cops, madmen, and bad checks. What was another day?
SLC: Give me an overview of the Salem Witch Trials. What you don’t remember without looking it up, go ahead and make it up for me. Make it wild as you possibly can.
MT: They always say ‘Massachusetts’ but it started in Bates, Arkansas. 1690. A few years before history racked up its own bullox repetoire of tipped hats and brooms on the East Coast to rid the men of overwrought wives.
Humphrey Buford had been taking the broom to the privy since he was ten. He was sated by the girth and sure-aim of the handle. When he was 12, Mother caught him in the act of fellatio with the well-worn wood. Thrashed and beaten for unsung calendars, he went to Edward Plumstead, Mayor of Bates. Humphrey shrieked of the heathen doings of Mary Buford, his mother. She was a woman who conversed with gnomes, pumpkins, embroidery. She wore dead bats in her hair and no government had any say in how she enveloped her rapture. Humphrey spread word of her midnight jaunts with the broom. He preached to elves and statesmen until his tongue was raw. When that didn’t work, he pleasured them with tales of his mother flying through the sky on the flush-red wood of the broom. Off to shriek with the stinking breath of evil, to keep good folk from their nightly sitcoms.
Mary Buford was a brazen spokesperson. Chained and stocked in the main gazebo, sidled up against the pub and the bathhouse, someone called out ‘bitch’ though a few drunks nearby heard ‘witch’ instead and put WITCH on reverb, reflecting waves off cobblestone through the village.
Humphrey bought a glimmering gem-bound broom edged in thumbtacks for late nights alone, assured that he had won this battle until Mary, with the voice of a sorceress, lathered the town square with the tendrils of her telepathy and brought wifi to every home in town. By dawn, Humphrey was super-glued to the church spire naked sporting the afterflames of a Brazilian across his nether regions and a prayer on his lips.
SLC: You have to wear the face of someone you know for the rest of your life. Whose face and why?
MT: Lulu, my dog, is the wisest being I’ve ever known. She’s a beauty with a pouting lower lip and little teeth that jut out with courage and force. She’s a tawny ridgeback with long legs and the grace of a juggler. As close to perfection in a being I’ve ever seen.
SLC: Offer a breakdown of what you did yesterday as if you were a robot trying to keep that big secret throughout the day.
MT: A remarkable day in an unending cargo train of day/night/day/night questioning whether the light was right enough to get out of bed each late, then later, morning. This particular item helped sights sharpen on what had become tedious and endless shapes and cogs of duty. I had coffee, fed animals, got out of pj’s. So, it was a fairly big day. I had something scheduled on the calendar. Off to the tattoo artist with two sketches of exquisite tattoos, one on each forearm. The music, the artistry, the conversation all melded a wonderland of heart, light, and loving humans in quantities of two.
One week before, any tattoo appointment, or any appointment, would have been canceled. Seeing no one, not hoping to, and not sure of life expectancy, certainly brought up the ‘why bother’ with body art or anything else? But this item, this powder placed in a capsule, this psilocybin, gave life another leap into the world.
SLC: You’ve been zapped into the sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. Capture one of the characters. Which character do you choose, and how do you catch them?
MT: Aunt Bee was fraught with subterfuge. Her cookies were laced with acid, and she wife-swapped with any neighbors willing to dress up as her favorite porn star, Chesty Morgan, complete with strap-on boobs that swung to and fro and with virtuosity and could be thrown over the shoulder, as well.
Aunt Bee’s smile on camera was racked with shaking lips and a pursed knot of anxiety. She hid vices under her apron in order to drop Percocet when needed. After hours, her bun came down, she pulsed in stilettos and garter belts, closed the lesbian bar, Puss in Boots, and ransacked the row of ‘final call’ gals who owned their gray and golden years of bliss.
SLC: Vampires are a thing. And you’ve been made one. With one hour left before sunrise you have to find the safest place you know to fall into your preternatural slumber for the day. Take me to that safe, dark place.
MT: I move around. It’s better to score feral blood from disassembled scenes. I wait in alleys after bars close for frat boys who mouth gibberish and ‘fuck yous’ to their pasts, clutching ‘final call’ drinks while virile wrath withers off frail, caged tongues.
Made of velvet, alone with mute venom and a cocktail I can hear one slither behind me, considering my wobble a timid hack of a drunk ready to dissociate.
When the boy is upon me, I turn and vibrate, velveteen-girl-gone-lit, pulsing veins in red and blue bulbs as the sheen of my incisors go in for his carotid.
I don’t like to sleep alone, so I drag the prep, now white and drained, down the steps of my parent’s basement. Coffins are set up next to the pool table and the freezer packed with frozen bodies for those nights when I don’t feel like going out.
I slide him into my coffin-for-two, say goodnight to my parents who are already closed in and flick the lid shut, just as the first slant of light touches the windowsill.
SLC: Publishers all over the world suddenly have a major desire for your memoir. Thing is, they know nothing about your life. What is your opening chapter, the one you know will satisfy that need and land you in the middle of a multi-million dollar auction for your book?
MT: Simple. Mom was Anne Rice’s only friend and Anne was Mom’s inspiration. They talked shop over bloody vodka-tinis on weekends. Anne got trashed on two martinis and was spilling writing secrets. Mom recorded and took notes later. They lived for a great mystery.
Anne, who Mom called ‘Howard’ (her birth name), already had a notebook filled with a compilation of many of Rice’s fears.
So, one evening after the martinis, walking down a deserted alleyway, a man whispered ‘bury her alive’, snapped his black cape over her and whisked her across the street to the cemetery. He took a knife, slit her big toe and sucked on it, before she was entombed while breathing.
Rice ended up having a stroke. Mom ended up with a memoir that nodded its head to horror, noir, and a woman flanked with nightmares that never stopped coming true.
SLC: The Godzilla franchise runners have asked you to create a brand spanking new monster for the big lizard to fight for the next movie showdown. Create that monster. Tell me about it. What is it’s Achilles heel? From what dark corner of the universe doth it come?
MT: Meetings are endless. 20 high-ranking producers and CEO’s of top studios slam fists, blast out names of actors they have sex-planked, scream for new pens after the high notes sputter out of weeping ink. Everyone lives for the next savage beast. They study photos of the world’s top weightlifters, examine muscle ripples, how much foam burbles from the mouth. They hone it down to star quality and webbed feet. None come to a conclusion.
Wilson has a time of it. He moved to Hollywood from Fries, Virginia over three years before. Working his way through audition after audition was a challenge. He was dyslexic and he sometimes ran the lines sideways or backwards. Many directors laughed in his face. WTF. Then he heard about Scientology. A woman with a blue eye and brown eye, just like his hound Horace, handed him the pamphlet after another humiliation. Three weeks later he made his way to Sunset Boulevard to check her out. The building was as large as a planet, and no chance of finding her again. He was bombasted into interview after interview, cubby hole after cubby hole. Hubbard books backpacked him each time he left Sunset. Packed with wisdom, his neon underliners ran out of ink each night. Wilson kept up with meetings, lifted weights at the gym. The apartment was plastered with sticky notes of affirmations:
‘YOU ARE YOU BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE IS TAKEN.’
“MY MIND IS BRILLIANT.”
“MASTURBATION IS EFFECTIVE .”
“THE NUMBERS 7, 25, AND 16 ARE NOT EVIL.”
“I’M FORTUNATE IN LOSING MY PARENTS. THEY NEVER MEANT WELL BY ME.”
“I AM EXQUISITE TO LOOK AT.”
“I AM NOT SUSCEPTIBLE TO COLDS.”
“HAVING A THIRD NIPPLE DESTINIES ME FOR GREATNESS.”
“I MAY BE SHORT IN STATURE, BUT LONG IN PENIS.”
He was called to an audition after many years planking his way up the ladder, and stomping down quasi-egos afraid of reinventing themselves. His stage name was Scientologisticly voted on by all top-tiered suits. Tom Cruise.
After that, it was a neverending love affair with the large screen and fans who passed out upon seeing him. He had become THE ONE.
The day he showed up for the audition there was an eclipse and a full moon. Producers and CEO’s knew there were only two questions left. How much was this five-foot-one dandy going to cost them? And would they need two or three humans to fill up the costume for this tiny dancer of stage and screen?
MEG TUITE is author of a novel-in-stories, Domestic Apparition (San Francisco Bay Press), a short story collection, Bound By Blue, (Sententia Books) Meet My Haze (Big Table Publishing), White Van (Unlikely Books), won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry award from (Artistically Declined Press) for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging, Grace Notes (Unknown Press), as well as five chapbooks of short fiction, flash, poetic prose, and multi-genre. She teaches workshops and online classes through Bending Genres and is an associate editor at Narrative Magazine. Her work has been published in over 600 literary magazines and over fifteen anthologies including: Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up To No Good. Meg has been nominated over 15 times for the Pushcart Prize, won first and second place in Prick of the Spindle contest, five-time finalist at Glimmer Train, finalist of the Gertrude Stein award and 3rd prize in the Bristol Short Story Contest. She is also the editor of eight anthologies. She is included in the Best Small Fictions of 2021 and Wigleaf’s Top 50 stories of 2022.
SHELDON LEE COMPTON is a short story writer, poet, novelist, and memoirist from Pike County, Eastern Kentucky. He is the author of three novels, four short story collections, a poetry collection, and a memoir. In 2012, he was a finalist for both the Gertrude Stein Fiction Award and the Still Fiction Award. His writing has been nominated for the Chaffin Award for Excellence in Appalachian Writing, the Pushcart Prize, and longlisted for Wigleaf’s Top 50. He was cited twice for Best Small Fictions, in 2015 and 2016, before having his short story “Aversion” included in Best Small Fictions 2019 and his short story “The Good Life” included in Best Small Fictions 2022. Aside from his primary writing, he is the editor of the online journal The Airgonaut, curator of the interview series Chaos Questions, and a professor in the MFA program at Concordia University, St. Paul.