Tuesday, August 2



Mr. Happy Puppet Head is walking through the woods at night by himself. He’s never done this before and figures there’s no better time than the present.

The woods are behind his parents’ house where he grew up. There’s a small tract of undeveloped land between their suburban split-level and another house, and though his family doesn’t officially own the property, they’ve always just acted like they did.

Mr. Happy Puppet Head bobbles around the perimeter of the woods a few times. The darkness is thick, enveloping his eyes and cloaking him in an intangible blanket of solitude. The crickets and cicadas buzz loudly on all sides, his ears full with it. In one long swig he finishes off the bottle of mouthwash he brought with him. It’s mint flavored.

He decides to sit and experience the dark summertime to as an intense a level as he can muster. To open his senses wide and let everything wash in completely unfiltered.

He sits on a woman who is in the midst of a slow asphyxiation.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” says Mr. Happy Puppet Head. “Didn’t even know you were there.”

The woman kicks one leg out violently, cracking a small twig underneath Mr. Happy Puppet Head.

He ignites his lighter and blinks against the sudden brightness. Underneath his floating red puppet self is a woman in her mid-forties wearing a blue flower-print sundress. A large tongue is wrapped firmly around her entire head. She claws at it desperately, scraping her French-tipped nails across the writhing muscle.

“Oh...” Mr. Happy Puppet Head drops his lighter and the flame goes out. He turns and bobbles away as fast as he can. He bounces off a tree, then another, and another. He bounces off tree after tree as he makes his near panicked way towards the porch light in front of his parent’s house.

He falls into a deep hole.

It is too deep for him to jump out of and the walls are made of crumbly dirt. He is trapped.

“Hey,” I say in the pitch darkness. “Did you try grabbing that root right there? Maybe you can climb on it.”

“Midnight?” He asks. “Is that you?”

“Yeah.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Try grabbing that root. I bet it’ll hold.” I scratch my nose, but he doesn’t know about that. It’s too dark.

“I asked you not to come,” he reminds me. “You asked and I said I just wanted to hang out at my parents house by myself.”

“I’m just your imagination,” I tell him. “You’re under a lot of stress in pitch darkness. But seriously, you should try climbing that root right there. Remember the tongue monster?”

“Oh, shit,” he says as he reaches blindly for the root. He grabs onto it and hoists his small body out of the hole. “Thanks, man.”

He continues his escape. Behind him he hears the Tongue Monster chasing him. First the sound of something large dragging, then lifting up off the ground for a moment before thudding back onto the dirt.

He reaches the house and slams the front door behind him, locking both the deadbolt and the doorknob twisty-lock. Mr. Happy Puppet Head collapses breathless on the couch.

After a moment hear hears the telltale drag, lift, thud of the Monster. It comes closer and closer to the house.

Drag… lift… thud. Drag… lift… thud…

A key slides into the door and the lock slides open easily. Mr. Happy Puppet Head gives out a little scream. The Tongue Monster flops into the house and Mr. Happy Puppet Head lets out another little scream while he burrows into the pillows of the couch.

“What?” the Tongue Monster asks, it’s enormous tongue hanging out and dragging along the carpet. “You don’t even live here.”

“Sam Sam?” asks Mr. Happy Puppet Head. “I thought you died years ago.”

“That’s a horrible thing to say!” scolds their Mom as she tightens her bathrobe around her waist, watching them from the top of the stairs. “Just because you never visit doesn’t mean we’re dead. Apologize.”

“Mom, he was strangling some woman in the lot next door,” says Mr. Happy Puppet Head.

“Hey, Mr. Happy Puppet Head,” greets his Dad. “I didn’t know you were coming over.” His big black mustache is clearly a family trait.

“Yeah,” says Mr. Happy Puppet Head.

“Cool,” replies Dad.

“Hey, I’m going to make some tea,” says Sam Sam, drag, lift, thudding his way to the kitchen. “Anyone want any?”

“No, I’m going back to bed,” says Mom. “I’ve got important business calls in the morning.”

“Goodnight, kids,” says Dad.

Mr. Happy Puppet Head finds the remote and clicks the TV on. He finds some good cartoons and turns the volume down a little. After a few minutes Sam Sam joins him with a cup of tea and flops himself out on the floor near the couch.

“Your tongue got really big,” points out Mr. Happy Puppet Head. “You’re like a Tongue Monster now.”

“Shut up.”

“No, seriously, you should work that angle.”

“I said shut up.”

Mr. Happy Puppet Head shuts up and they watch cartoons in peace. “It’s nice being home,” thinks Mr. Happy Puppet Head to himself.

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