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Reginald Blisterkunst, Ph.D.
Among the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Pluto Wars

Greg Chandler
"Bee's Tree"
"Local Folk"
"Roland's Feast"
"Pond Story "

Doug Childers
"The Baptism"

Gene Cox
The Sunset Lounge

Clarke Crutchfield
"The Break-In"
"The Canceled Party"
"The Imaginary Bullet"

Jason DeBoer
"The Execution of the Sun"

Deanna Francis Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Dennis Must

Charlie Onion
"Love Among the Jellyfish"
Pluto Wars
"Feast of the Manfestation"

Chris Orlet
"Romantic Comedy"

Daniel Rosenblum
"A Full Donkey"

Deanna Frances Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Andrew L. Wilson
"Fat Cake and Double Talk"


Feast of the Manifestation
Charlie Onion


Mrs. Tyler was spreading pine needles around her azaleas when she saw the gold Cadillac pull into the driveway across the street. The woman who lived there—a divorcee who had just moved into the neighborhood—was always bringing new men over, and Mrs. Tyler could never keep herself from watching when they showed up. One of them drove a brand-new silver Jaguar, so Mrs. Tyler wasn't impressed with the Cadillac. Then she saw the vanity plates.

TV 11.

Immediately, Mrs. Tyler threw her garden spade down and watched the driver's door. A few seconds passed melodramatically as the car sat stock-still. Then Freddy Wishbone, the local anchorman of Channel 11, stepped out of the Cadillac, pulled his mirrored Ray Bans off and slipped them into his chest pocket.

"I thought he'd be taller," Mrs. Tyler thought to herself. "Still—Freddy Wishbone. Right here."

Wide-eyed, she watched the anchorman walk around to the passen-ger's door and open it for the divorcee, who stepped out and let Freddy hold her hand as they walked into the house.


When the divorcee moved in, the first thing she had done was take down the tall white fence the previous owner had erected around the house. The boards were rotting, and several had already fallen into the yard, but Mrs. Tyler and the other neighbors saw it as a sign of communal openness when the woman went out and pulled the fence down herself one Saturday afternoon.

The man who had put it up had been hated by everyone—the neighborhood kids called him a werewolf—and he had even rigged a wire up to the gate so that when it opened, a row of floodlights concealed under the gutters came on and an alarm went off in the living room. After a neighbor explained what the wire was for (it, like the fence, had stopped working years ago), the divorcee cut it off at the point where the man had buried it next to the gate, and she waved it over her head like it was a dead snake. The neighbors, most of whom were outside doing yard work, waved and smiled.

But then the stay-overs started showing up. First it was a sky-blue Chevette that sat in the driveway for two days while the bedroom curtains stayed closed. Mrs. Tyler convinced everyone it was the divorcee's brother, who had come from out of town and needed to rest from his long trip. The woman had never mentioned a brother to Mrs. Tyler, but she was willing to grant her new neighbor a plausible story. A week later, though, a tall, dark-haired man in a black Blazer showed up and stayed overnight, and then at the end of the week, the Jaguar appeared with the distinguished-looking, gray-haired man driving.

After that, the men began appearing on a regular cycle, and it was impossible for Mrs. Tyler to excuse them all as brothers and cousins from out of town. The neighborhood wives (and some retired husbands) were getting up in arms about their loose neighbor. Still, the woman worked in her yard, washed her new Corvette frequently and waved at the neighbors like nothing was wrong.

And what could Mrs. Tyler do about it, after all?


The appearance of Freddy Wishbone threw a wrench into everything. It was no longer a simple matter of immorality; it had become a case of local fame, where you could be working in the yard or washing your windows and get to see the man off the TV.

"Just imagine him becoming one of the regulars," a neighbor said to Mrs. Tyler in a thrilled voice.

Like everyone else, Mrs. Tyler was dying to find out what Freddy was like. So one afternoon she positioned a chair in front of the living room window and waited for the divorcee to come home. A week had passed since Freddy's first visit, and since then, she'd seen his Cadillac in the driveway twice, but only in the afternoons. Mrs. Tyler had to wait two hours before the divorcee showed up, and by then she was so worked up that she was in the woman's driveway before the woman had locked the doors of her Corvette.

"I don't mean to pry," Mrs. Tyler said. "But I was out doing yard work the other day, and I saw a man come over here who looked just like Freddy Wishbone—from TV 11."

"Oh yes." The divorcee smiled. "He took me out to lunch."

"What's he like—if you don't mind my asking?"

"Well," the divorcee said, leaning against her Corvette, "he's a very nice man. And he's really good with kids. He talked to some Cub Scouts for a long time at the Red Lobster's yesterday. Just went right over and started talking. They didn't know who he was, of course, but he just kept talking."

"That's wonderful," Mrs. Tyler said.

The notion of Freddy in a Red Lobster's struck Mrs. Tyler like a vision. She saw Freddy leaning down to shake a Cub Scout's hand while patting another on the back, and she even imagined him telling the boys a joke or two. Then, as he leaned over to help a Scout straighten his neck tie, Mrs. Tyler imagined his handsome profile being illuminated by the large lobster tank behind him.

"He's a wonderful man," Mrs. Tyler said, ecstatically.

"Yes, he's very sweet," the divorcee said.

"Are you—are you going out with him again?"

"Yes. I think we'll go out again Saturday."

"What time?"

The divorcee stared at Mrs. Tyler for a moment.

"If you don't mind my asking," Mrs. Tyler added, smiling.

"Noon, I should think."

After chatting for another minute or two, Mrs. Tyler rushed back across the street and telephoned all the neighborhood wives about the lunch with the Scouts and the upcoming date.



On Saturday, Mrs. Tyler tried to convince her husband to work with her in the front yard from noon to one o'clock, when Freddy was supposed to show up for lunch. Tyler, who was building a fence around the back yard, compromised and agreed to weed the front flower beds from twelve to twelve-thirty. His wife kept watch while he went to the shed to get his stool and garden spade.

Tyler's fence wasn't a mean-spirited gesture, like the divorcee's fence had been. It was merely a privacy fence, designed to create a feeling of intimacy and leisure at family cookouts: a discreet fence, six feet high along the back and down the sides, four feet high across the front. The front yard, of course, would be left exposed. Still, as Tyler looked down at his house from the bank, he admired how his play-room addition served as a natural privacy wall for the deck. From his elevated vantage point, it took on the aspect of a well-defended fortress. After a moment's enjoy-ment, he sighed and walked around front, spade and garden stool in hand.

Fifteen minutes later, Mrs. Tyler spotted Freddy's Cadillac coming down the hill just as her husband saw a large—very large—brown beetle crawling along the edge of the house. The beetle was scurrying against the wall as if it were blind and clinging to the brick foundation for direction. Tyler crouched over it as the Cadillac pulled into the divorcee's driveway, the car's heavy wheels crunching the gravel.

"There he is," his wife exclaimed, but Tyler was busy routing the beetle out with a large stick.

The beetle was the size of two large walnuts glued together, and its belly was so swollen that its legs barely reached the mulch it was wading through. Tyler held a stick over its pincers, and once the beetle had clamped on, he carried it to the flagstone sidewalk.

"Oh Tyler," his wife complained, "put that thing down. You missed Freddy."

"Honey—look at this thing." Tyler lifted the stick a few inches off the ground. "Have you ever seen a bug this big? I just can't believe it. Right at our house." Tyler twirled the stick slowly to examine the beetle's underside. "I'm going to kill it," he announced.

"No, don't." Mrs. Tyler grabbed the stick, but kept the bug away from her legs. "It's probably a mother beetle, and she's carrying her eggs with her. You don't want to do that to an entire colony, Tyler."

"She's probably worth a lot to them—all their eggs," Tyler said, musing on the beetle's history. "That's why she was so frantic when I spotted her. She's probably never been away from her people before." Tyler laid the stick down on the flagstone, and, before his wife could stop him, he picked up a large stone from the azalea border and dropped it on the beetle. The sound of the beetle's hard shell popping open was surprisingly loud. As Mrs. Tyler had predicted, tiny white eggs jetted out from under the stone.

"Oh my God!" Mrs. Tyler held her hand over her nose and mouth as the smell of steamed rice wafted up to the couple.

"I had to do it—they could undermine the house's foundation," Tyler said. "Really."

Mrs. Tyler fled indoors, the Freddy Wishbone sighting forgotten. After a moment, Tyler lifted the stone and studied the beetle remains. Then, jamming the stick into the pincers (still opening and closing from reflex), he carried it to the trash cans. "Just got a huge beetle that was threatening the house," he called out to their next-door neighbor, who had come out when she'd spotted the Cadillac.

"You just don't care about Freddy and what he's doing for this neighborhood," Mrs. Tyler complained when her husband finally came in. "You just don't care."


Nine days later, Freddy became a stay-over, and the neighborhood was ecstatic. He had come over for lunch that afternoon, as he had begun doing regularly, and after the six o'clock news was over, his Cadillac pulled back into the driveway, where it sat until nine o'clock the next morning. The fresh morning light reflected off the car as if it were solid gold.

That night, the neighborhood wives gathered in Mrs. Tyler's living room to watch the news, to see if Freddy's sleeping in their neighborhood had changed him. Although he didn't say anything directed particularly at them, the women all felt as if he were speaking to them individually. They all agreed with Mrs. Tyler when she said that she felt like an eager servant who had been blessed with the King's staying in her village.

"Maybe we should buy the two of them something special," Mrs. Johnson suggested.

"How about some nice satin sheets?" another woman said. "Baby blue like Freddy's eyes."

But this idea was considered too risqué, and the issue was dropped.



For a period, the neighborhood was living a fantasy. The divorcee's other male friends disappeared, and Freddy's Cadillac appeared every morning like the waving flag that drives tired soldiers on. Then suddenly, three weeks after becoming a stay-over, Freddy stopped coming over altogether. Everyone in the neighborhood waited for the Cadillac to come back, but it never did. Finally, one morning before the divorcee left for work, when she could no longer contain herself, Mrs. Tyler walked over to her house and asked what had happened.

"I found out he's married," the divorcee said. "And still living with his wife. That's something I won't get involved in. It's wrong, don't you think?"

Mrs. Tyler stared at the woman and shook her head. "Freddy's a good man," she said. "You shouldn't have done that."

"And I found out he's seeing two other women as well."

"But it's Freddy," Mrs. Tyler yelled over her shoulder as she stepped off the porch and nearly got struck by Mr. Drewson as he drove up the street.


She was more bitter about the divorcee's abandoning Freddy than she'd been about anything before, and her rage grew as she sat in her house and ruminated on it. She paced through the downstairs rooms, sat in front of an hour's worth of soaps without following the stories, and finally went out to rake the yard.

As she jerked at the leaves under the front yard maples, she cast angry glances at the divorcee's house. "Floozy—floozy—floozy," she kept muttering, in rhythm with her raking. Then, when she'd gotten a big pile raked up and had worked it down to the roadside, she decided—suddenly and irrationally—to keep raking the pile across the street and dump it in the center of the divorcee's yard.

"A big tell-tale sign for the floozy that we don't like her kind around here," Mrs. Tyler said to herself as she worked the pile across the road. Once she'd gotten it into a neat, volcanic pile between the two pine trees in the center of the divorcee's yard, she leaned against a fence post the woman hadn't gotten up yet. She was admiring her work when Mrs. Johannson power-walked by with her gleaming-white walking shoes on.

"What have you done?" Mrs. Johannson called out.

"Just letting this woman know what we think about the way she's treated Freddy," Mrs. Tyler called back, triumphantly. "This'll teach her she should have kept her fence up."

As she resumed her power-walking, Mrs. Johannson shook her fist over her head in a gesture of unity.


When the Corvette pulled into the driveway that evening, there was just enough sunlight for Mrs. Tyler to see the divorcee's face as she stared at the pile of leaves in her yard. First, the woman stood on the sidewalk and gawked at the pile. Then she set her purse down on the grass and walked around it. And finally, she looked up into the two pine trees as if the pile had been thrown out of the trees and the person who had done it was still sitting up there. Then, after a glance up and down the street, she picked up her purse and walked inside.

From behind her blinds, Mrs. Tyler watched the woman turn on the living room lights and close the curtains.

Five hours later, after they had conferred with one another by phone about Mrs. Tyler's gesture, eight of the ten neighborhood wives closest to the Freddy situation snuck out of their houses and met in front of the di-vorcee's house. Each of them had brought something for the pile—a few bags of garbage, two large branches knocked down by a recent thunder-storm, a grocery bag filled with used cat litter. After casing the house for movement, each of the women ran into the yard and threw her contribution onto the pile. One of the women—Mrs. Drewson, whose husband co-owned a small radio station—wanted to set the pile on fire, but she was voted down.

"We wouldn't want to do anything illegal," one of the women said.

"Just a little fire," Mrs. Drewson said. "Just a small one—we'd keep an eye on it."

Finally, after some debating, the group agreed that one small corner of the pile could be lit, as long as the flames were contained. So after all the other women were grouped safely across the street, Mrs. Drewson lit a book of matches and set it down on the pile. Once it ignited, she ran to the others.

By the time Mrs. Drewson caught her breath and looked back at the pile, the flames were as high as the lowest branches of the two pine trees that stood over it.

"You said you were going to keep it small," one of the women hissed.

The women stood motionless, paralyzed, watching the flames catch the lowest limbs on fire. Their faces glowed red; even across the street, they could feel the heat coming off the pile.

Mrs. Tyler, who had been watching the women's movements all along, stood in her front doorway with her right index finger hovering over the '1' button on her cordless phone. She had already dialed 9-1, but she was waiting for something else to happen before she completed the call. She wasn't sure what she wanted to see—the divorcee coming out, perhaps, dressed up in a red floozy outfit and crying for forgiveness. But even soshe didn't know exactly what she wanted. Then, just as the flames were beginning to climb to higher branches, the divorcee jumped out onto the porch.

She was wearing a discreet, baby-blue nightgown and robe whose distinctive flower patterns suggested to Mrs. Tyler that it was a Laura Ashley design. For a moment, the woman stood as still as a department store mannequin. Then she ran down to the fire, screaming. As she danced back and forth around the burning pile, hot orange pine needles fell into her hair and onto her shoulders.

The women watched as she flailed her hands at the needles frantically. From the shadows of Mrs. Gilson's pair of magnolias, they watched her succeed in knocking all but one glowing pine needle off, and that one burned through her nightgown and seared the glowing image of a stick man into her shoulder. After the divorcee ran back into the house, the women fled. Almost immediately, large brown beetles began scurrying out from under the burning pile.

Mrs. Tyler retreated to the den, where she and her husband watched the firemen battle against the flames that had now reached the house. Mr. Tyler, who had been taking a nap, had been woken by the sirens.

"Just look at it," she said. "All because of what she did to poor Freddy. I'll bet she wishes she'd been nicer now," she said, drumming her fingers on the window sill.

"Umm," her husband said. He was still groggy from the nap, and watching the firemen move around in their bulky jackets somehow made him even sleepier. Then, as the road began to ripple in tiny waves toward the house, he sat up. "What the hell is that stuff on the road?"

Mrs. Tyler squinted at the road as the waves clarified themselves into small, crawling dots. "Bugs," she said, uncertainly, as she heard the back door slam.

Seconds later, she saw her husband appear from the side yard, a shovel lifted high over his head. At first, the firemen were alarmed. Then, after Tyler began beating flat the beetles that rushed madly from the fire, they shrugged their shoulders and turned their attention back to the flames, which were soon put out, though the two pines, they all agreed, would have to come down.



About the Author

Charlie Onion is a frequent WAG contributor, and his novel, Pluto Wars (co-authored with the late Reginald Blisterkunst), is currently being serialized on the WAG Web site.


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