Author Archives: Chris Maloney

About Chris Maloney

Chris Maloney worked to help patients who are unable or unwilling to live with lifelong drug prescriptions. He is now retired and a part-time author.

The Paper King

Once upon a time there was a king. But he was only a paper king. On one side of him there was his face, and on the other a blank card face. This made the king sad. Everyone around him only showed one side of themselves, always hiding the other side. There must be a better way, thought the king.

Going around the lake, the king came upon the land of the transparent people. He could barely see them and could see right through them. Only their smiles were barely visible. The king was saddened. He could see both sides of them but there was nothing there.

The king went to the lord of the transparent people, who told him of a great mountain range that might lead him to a different land. The king traveled for some time before he reached the mountains. They were too steep for his horse so he abandoned the horse to graze on paper grass, and climbed.

Climbing on and on, the king finally reached the edge of the paper. He stood on the top of the paper mountain and gazed all around at everything. He realized how small his world truly was. Then he fell. But because he was only paper, he floated gently to the ground near his horse.

Riding back to his lands, the king passed through many places. Everywhere they thought him both wise and mad, for you could see both sides of his face. Somehow on the top of the mountain he had bent in an impossible way and become whole.

The king returned to his kingdom, and resumed his throne. He gave great counsel to those that came from far and wide. Many wanted the king’s wisdom. But few ventured out to look for the mountains, and fewer still returned. Those that did the king welcomed, as he did anyone who came into his presence. For the rest of his long life the king remembered the top of the mountain, and taught as many as would hear him speak of it.

The Projectionist

The movie on the screen was in black-and-white. Every movie was, in this tiny specialized movie theater. Here the old projectionist played all the movies that didn’t make it into the digitalized files. There is a misunderstanding that every movie is available online, but that’s not true. Movies that don’t make the cut are lost forever except in little old movie houses like this one.

Image result for image projection booth

Sometimes the projectionist played old favorites. Movies like “A Day In The Park” featuring happy families and children flying kites would draw as many as seven patrons, four more than the usually sleeping three patrons that occupied the seats most afternoons.

But all of the movies got shown in rotation. There was a movie called “Breakfast” which featured 47 minutes of eggs being fried. Not the most exciting film. Another movie was called “Battle” which featured a score created by the director for the movie. In the movie two rival ant factions fought for control of the Amazon floor. Unfortunately, the director was a far better composer than camera man. So the entire film was shot slightly out of focus. By midway through the film, patrons would think they were going blind.

It happened one day. The projectionist felt a twinge in his heart. He knew without asking that this was his time. He switched the reels, so that 47 minutes of eggs frying was abruptly interrupted by the second reel of “A Day In The Park.” Grimacing in pain, the old projectionist faltered down the steep stairs, really a ladder, out of the booth. He staggered through the theater doors, down the frayed thread worn red carpet, and collapsed on the stairs to the platform.  He could barely breath, and blackness threatened to close in around the edges of his vision.

Half-crawling, the projectionist climbed the last few steps and stood before the screen. He stepped forward, and the movie took him in.

Critics of rare films noted that, in the second reel of “A Day In The Park,” the producer of the film suddenly appears walking from behind the camera and proceeding across the park. He looks young and happy. By all accounts the producer used all the money he received from the film to open a small rare movie theater to display his work and the work of others like him.

The Hole In the Wall

Again… these are rough drafts written without editing.

Once upon a time there was hole in the wall.

Since Mr. James Wallach had little money, he was willing to look at the apartment. It wasn’t in a bad neighborhood, and the rent was so much less expensive that he called and asked what was wrong with the room. The superintendent told him there was a hole in the wall, but it had been covered.

Mr. Wallach didn’t ask more because he wanted the apartment. His job was starting next week and he needed to be out of his car and in a bed before he started working the long hours these assignment jobs always required.

Image result for image hole in the wall

The room was nothing to speak of, except for the stainless steel plate along one wall. For the life of him, Mr. Wallach couldn’t think why anyone would care. There was hole, but it was covered. A little unsightly but definitely worth paying a fourth of the normal rent. Mr. Wallach took the room.

Everything was fine for the first few nights, but one night Mr. Wallach heard noise on the other side of the wall. It was a splashing, like someone taking a bath. Mr. Wallach wondered if the hole opened into a bathroom next door. But when he examined the external wall, his was the last apartment before the stairwell. There was nothing next his apartment that might make the splashing sound.

The noise made Mr. Wallach curious, so he borrowed tools from his work and unscrewed the steel plate. Behind it there was a hole, about head-sized, and beyond the hole was a blue-green substance that pulsed slightly as Mr. Wallach watched. It looked like water. Mr. Wallach reached out his hand to touch the membrane, and his hand passed right through, into water. He could feel the wetness, like dipping your hand in a warm tub of water. But when he withdrew his hand, it was dry.

When Mr. Wallach went down to talk to the superintendent, the old woman was waiting for him. She had him sit down and explained the story to him. It seemed a few years back a research physicist had rented the room. He had “borrowed” some expensive research tools from his work, and set them up in his room. Some combination of all of them had acted on the wall. The research physicist had been taken away one day by a number of very angry-looking men in uniforms, leaving the wall and nothing else in the room. They even took the light fixture.

The next renter had complained of noises behind the wall, and had eventually knocked the hole in the wall to see through if there were rats or something. He’d stayed looking out the hole, not even going to work, and so the superintendent had evicted him. When he left, he’d cried like a baby.

So the next renter had been warned about the hole, but he was a handy man and said he’d patch it up himself. Instead, he stopped going to work, stopped leaving his apartment, and eventually had to be evicted as well. After that, the superintendent had put up the steel plate and advertised the room at a lower rent. She figured that the plate would help and the lower rent would mean that, even if he lost his job, Mr. Wallach would be able to stay for a few more months on his savings.

Mr. Wallach found the whole thing a bit incredible. He had no intention of losing his job to stare at a hole, water or no water. He replaced the plate at the superintendent’s insistence, and went about his work for a week. That was when the singing started.

It was a strange, lilting singing, and Mr. Wallach knew even before he stood up and listened to the steel plate that it was coming through the wall. He turned on the radio in response, but there was something permeating about the singing that cut right through any other song. It was like the singing was the harmony for any other music he played.

Mr. Wallach went off to work, but found himself humming the singing off and on all day. When he got home, there was no singing, and he found he missed it. Sometime in the night the singing started. Mr. Wallach tried to ignore the singing, but found himself borrowing tools again to take down the steel plate. Once it was down, he gazed out into the blue-green, flickering water but didn’t see anything.

Every night the singing came, but by the time Mr. Wallach got up and looked out the hole there was no one there. Even at midnight, the water shone with light. Maybe it was an artificial light or maybe it was a sunlight from another part of the world.

It happened one morning while Mr. Wallach was eating breakfast. He heard the singing and went to the hole. On the other side of the hole was a person of some kind, singing. Mr. Wallach stood transfixed for a moment, then returned to his breakfast. He did not look at the hole, and ignored the singing. But when he left work that day, he brought home all the tools he needed to break up a wall.

The next day Mr. Wallach did not go to work. Since she was watching, the superintendent went to his room and knocked. Not hearing anything, she let herself into the room. There in the wall was  man-sized hole, filled on the other side by pulsating water that never made anything wet on this side of the wall. When the superintendent looked through the wall, she saw Mr. Wallach dancing with a mermaid.

Modern Living Leprechaun Style

Leprechaun engraving 1858

Leprechaun engraving 1858 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a leprechaun named Shaun.  He lived in modern times, which was tough for a fairytale creature.  His woodland had been bulldozed by a suburban developer outside of Dublin and now he found himself in the basement of one of the low rent tenement buildings that the city council had dubbed The Green Hills in honor of what was there before they put in the grey, drab concrete apartment blocks for the poor and destitute to get them out of the central city.

Like the rest of the development, the Leprechaun was supposed to be dealt with, never seen from again.  And many of Shaun’s people had left, some immigrating to America in the bottom of potato sacks, taking up residence in the Keebler Elf factory, where at least they could be out of the closet about their fairytale nature.  Others had gone deep underground, where sooner or later the dirt and the dark would turn them into dwarves or worse, trolls.  Very few people recognize that genetics are only the beginning point for an organism, and that nurturing green fields are as much a part of the makeup of a Leprechaun as the slime pits and bilge waste are for a troll.

But Shaun fought the direction of the world and refused to leave his ancestral home.  As soon as the tenement had gone up he’d picked a basement flat that butted up against what had been his ancestral cave under the branches of a great oak now sold for toothpicks and beer barrels.  There Shaun had stayed, donning dark glasses and shabby clothes and screaming obscenities and throwing things if anyone came near.  He’d moved in so soon they’d never had time to mark his flat with a number, so later neighbors just assumed he was the tenement’s terrible crazy fix it man.  They’d complain about his temper, but the next day whatever they complained to him about would be fixed.  So they liked their super despite his bizarre ways.  As for the owners, they never noticed they were one super short, and wouldn’t have said anything if they had.  So Shaun fixed things and had a place of his own.

It all started to go south when Shaun reached his mid-life and started thinking about getting a wife and settling down.  Where was a fellow to go in these parts to find a Leprechaun wife?  He thought about many things but then heard several of the tenement boys talking about the internet.  One nightly raid later, Shaun was online looking for other Leprechauns.  He found exactly what he was looking for at the Keebler personals, where wanton hussies looking for Leprechauns with very green jackets gave all their particulars.

Shaun wrote them all.  In the next few weeks, none of them wrote him back except to taunt him for being a fool.  But one of the girls knew a girl with a very strict family and mentioned to her that a stick-in-the-mud was writing from the old country looking for a traditional wife.  “As if,” she huffed.  “A girl has to look forward.”  The traditional girl, who’s name was Mabel, got Shaun’s address and sent him a honest-to-God letter asking him questions.  Shaun was flabbergasted to receive mail, but wrote her back.

Things progressed nicely until Mabel and her family took the journey out to the old country.  They knocked on Shaun’s flat and were not impressed by his shenanigans.  “What’s this?” Said Mabel’s father.  “You’re nothing more than a squatter! How will you support my daughter?”  As a little person he was used to standing tall for his rights.  He hired an attorney who mentioned that the super in tenement six had never been paid.  The owners called it a clerical error and corrected it with a nice settlement.

There weren’t any Leprechaun ministers in Shaun’s neck of the woods, so they had the festivities in America.  Shaun flew back with the family, who had passports and everything else.  It took some time for Shaun to get a passport of his own, but once that was settled, he became a citizen like everyone else.

Now Shaun and Mabel live in the basement flat of tenement six.  They’re little people, but keep themselves to themselves.  Shaun’s even stopped screaming at the other tenants, though he still does his housework secretly at night.  Some things never change.

The Shipwreck

Riverdance run aground on Anchorsholme beach

Riverdance run aground on Anchorsholme beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Once upon a time there was a great ship up on the shore of a deserted little island.  Inside the ship was the great anchor that had never been put out in time, so that the ship had run aground.  Between the two prongs of the anchor a hammock had been stretched.

 

Spivey slept in the hammock when he wasn’t out collecting coconuts or spear fishing or collecting from his fish nets.  He’d been first mate aboard the shipwrecked vessel, back when the barnacles on the sides had been the first generation.  Now they were four or five generations deep on the rusting mass of the ship.

 

Years ago the Captain had rowed away in the lifeboat and left Spivey to watch the ship while he got help.  So Spivey waited.  He could see his beard had gone white, and it was harder to climb the palms for the coconuts or to wrestle the octopi for the fish in his fish nets, but Spivey waited.

 

The Captain had decided to go on a cruise.  It had been years since he’d been to sea, having retired after blaming Spivey for that shipwreck years ago.  But now that he was out on a cruise to the Bahamas he suddenly recalled the old cashbox he’d been carrying for that oil firm.  Weren’t there old stock certificates for Shell and Exxon in there?  They’d be worth a pretty penny now, he was sure.

 

It might be worthwhile scouting out that old wreck.  By now it must’ve slipped below water, but no one would have ever looked for it.  He’d told them that they’d floundered hundreds of miles from where they’d run aground.

 

But the Captain knew where it had gone up on that atoll.  It had happened just when he’d been arguing with Spivey. They didn’t need to drop anchor in that storm, not with a ship of that size.  He still couldn’t believe that they’d run aground.  But that had been years ago, and now the barnacles had dealt with anything except maybe that old cashbox.

 

The Captain rented a glass bottom boat in the Bahamas.  Most people wanted to tootle around the reefs, but he took the whole boat for the day and took it out into open water as fast as it would go.  He figured if the hulk had gone under water he could spot it from above, and then snorkel down for the cashbox.

 

When he got out to the atoll, the Captain saw a hunched old figure banging away at a coconut next to the rusted out ship.  He docked the flat bottomed boat up onto the sand, and walked over.  “Spivey, is that you?”

 

“Captain!”  Spivey called out. “You came back!  I hope you got the help you were looking for?”

 

You don’t know the half of it, thought the Captain to himself.  I’ll get myself that cashbox, and then we’ll see about making old Spivey scarce.  But he slapped his old mate on the back and said he just needed to look around in the old hulk.

 

Now, you might be feeling bad for old Spivey at this point.  But in the last few years he’d been having a few thoughts about the Captain.  So when the Captain went into the hulk Spivey went sprinting up the beach to some bushes.  He yanked the cashbox out of those bushes and took off for that flat-bottomed boat.  By the time the Captain came out of the hulk, Spivey was half a mile out.  “Don’t worry, Captain!”  He called back.  “I’ve just got to go get some help, and I’ll be back for you!”

 

 

The Cloud Building

English: Painter preparing balcony surface for...

English: Painter preparing balcony surface for painting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a painting of clouds.  It was done in an impressionistic style, with every stroke of the paint clear and dark.  The painting was enormous, and the painter used his whole body to make a great arc of paint that made up just one tiny portion of a cloud.

The painting was on the side of a building, and it was to be immortalized by placing a great plexiglass plate over the finished painting.  It would be sealed from the elements and exist forever.

It was to be the painter’s masterpiece, and he labored long and hard, hanging from a narrow scaffolding for days at a time.

But things happen, and the building needed a new sprinkler system.  They cut the painter’s budget and he could no longer buy paint.  Then they cut his budget entirely and sent him home.

From his tiny apartment far away, the painter could look into the city and see his unfinished painting on the side of the building.  He was embarrassed, frustrated, and finally depressed.  Every morning he would look out of the window of his tiny apartment and feel sad and angry all over again.

Then one day someone sent the painter a picture of his painting up close.  The rainy season had come, and the paint was beginning to run, to creep down the side of the building.  It was the final straw, and the painter fell into deep despair.

As the rainy season progressed, the pain seeped down the building.  It crept into every crevice and slid along the slight depressions in the building’s surface.  Gradually the paint descended the entire building, forming the outlines of shadows and strange shapes that could have been clouds.

When the painter at last looked out of his window again, he saw that the entire building had been covered with clouds.  To this day, all the people of the city call the building the Cloud Building and refer to cloud painting as a masterpiece of nature and art.

The Skulls

Skull on the crown of Lord Shiva at Hoyseleswa...

Skull on the crown of Lord Shiva at Hoyseleswara temple, India (Photo credit: Rohit Rath)

Once upon a time there was a carriage rut on a London street.  It wasn’t wide enough to fit new cobblestones, and it was constantly getting filled with water, so it hadn’t been repaired.

It was the ideal place for a boy with a quick wit and quicker hands to idle a day away.  Sometimes carriages would bounce into the hole and nothing would happen, but sometimes things fell off the top or fell out the window.  In that case, a quick lad might grab the thing and be off around the corner before the carriage could stop.  It wasn’t a great living, but it was better than some.

Sammy was the sort of boy who hung around the carriage rut.  He’d won it from another boy in a game of marbles, and now it was his until someone else won it off him.

Today was a good day.  A carriage came rumbling past with way too much luggage piled on top.  It hit the rut, and a black case slid out of the pile.  Sammy caught it on the way down, and it never made a sound.  He was gone around the corner, but from the sound of the carriage it wasn’t even slowing.  This was his lucky day.

Sammy hid back in his alley and opened the case with shaking fingers. Maybe there were clothes he could pawn, or maybe even some jewelry.

The hinge snapped open, and Sammy got a shock.  Inside the case were two human skulls!

Sammy snapped the case lid down quick.  The initials on the outside read C.D.  Probably a madman who carried his victims around in cases after he done them in.  Sammy remembered with a shiver how much luggage had been on top of that carriage.  Was it all victims?

Doing what every good street boy should do, Sammy buried the case under some garbage in the back of the alley and tried to forget about it.  He figured the carriage rut might not be safe, so he took a job as a newspaper boy for a few days.  At the end of the day you kept any papers you didn’t sell, and Sammy used them to line his cubbyhole.  One morning he woke up and read a little advertisement.  “Lost, black case, reward.  C.D. “ and it gave an address.

Sammy tried to ignore the advertisement, but it shook him that C.D. was looking for his case.  How far might such a desperate man go to find his victims?  Wouldn’t it be better to plead ignorance and return the case?

After a sleepless night when every noise sent Sammy to the back of his cubby, Sammy took the next day off and dug up the case.  He hiked his way across London to the address in the advertisement.  It was a great old house, with a long, shadowy lawn and a great dark door with one of those glowering lion’s head knockers.

It looked spooky enough, but Sammy wanted his reward, and he wanted this C.D. character to be off his trail.  So he marched right up to the door and lifted the knocker.  Before he could let it fall the door opened.

A wisp of a fellow, old enough he should have been dead already, stood in the doorway.  He was all in his Sunday best, tie and tails.  “How may I help you?” His voice sounded like a rusty hinge.

“I-I’m here about the case.” Sammy held the case between them as if the old fellow would spring out at him.

“Very good, sir.  Please come in.”

Sammy was having second thoughts about this plan.  Maybe it was better if he dumped the case and scarpered it. But then maybe this C.D. would hunt him down like a rabbit.  Better to stand his ground and have it out.

The old fellow left him in the hall.  Like every smart lad, Sammy saw a door open a crack and went for it.  No telling where a spare piece of jewelry might be lying about.  He creaked open the door and nearly lost it.  Something was staring right at him!  He closed the door right quick and stifled a scream by biting on his knuckles.

An old man came out of the room down the hall.  He walked funny and he had a big old beard that stuck out from his head.  Despite his white hair, he bore down on Sammy pretty quickly.

Sammy stuck the case out before him.  “Here’s your case.” He really wanted to get clear of this house in the worst way.

Great, great.”  The old man laid a heavy hand on Sammy’s shoulder and steered him toward the door where the thing had been staring.  Sammy tried to back pedal away, but the old man had a fierce grip on his shoulder.

“Really, sir, I don’t need a reward.  I’d best be going.”  Sammy tried his best to twist away, but the old man held him fast.

“Nonsense, young man.  Let’s just make sure this is the right case.  Then you’ll get what is coming to you.”

The old man opened the door and Sammy stifled a shriek.  The eyes behind the door belonged to a stuffed monkey.  Inside the room other creatures stared at Sammy from high on the walls.

Taking the case from Sammy, the old man clicked it open.  He turned to Sammy slowly with a wide smile and froze Sammy’s bones.  “These are my skulls!  This one is a Neanderthal  and this one is a Cro-magnon.  Still in excellent condition.  Thank you lad.  Here’s a crown for your reward.  Charles Darwin always remembers his friends.” Sammy bowed, a bit in awe,  to the old naturalist.