she ate screaming yellow zonkers

I posted this once but chickened out and deleted it. Here it is again. A heartwarming story about family values. Manson Family, that is...

 
SHE ATE SCREAMING YELLOW ZONKERS
by Laika Pupkino
 
 
YOU EVER SKINNED ANYONE ALIVE? IT'S REALLY COOL, THEY'RE LIKE ALL SCREAMING AND SHIT, BUT I DON'T THINK A PERSON COULD DO IT ALONE, NOT WITH THEM STILL ALIVE ANYWAY. AND THEIR SKIN...
 
Okay well we really botched the first one, until we saw you had to do it in certain sections, cut diagonal like say across the top of the thigh, here, and then around the back and pull, it comes off sort of like that old resin-backed wallpaper, the real heavy stuff, the kind they used to call "institutional" although from what I been finding out institutions don't use much wallpaper; but you know the kind I mean-
 
No? No, I guess most people wouldn't, the different grades there are, but I kind of picked it up since my folks used to sell it, all kinds of wallpaper and panelling and junk; we had a shop attached to our house, a house attached to our shop back in Corona where it's all Mexicans now-
 
Which I mean is fine with me, I don't really give a fuck one way or the other, except I really do hate that kind of half-whistling thing they do when they're trying to get your attention; Pswee-wee-weet! But all I mean was back then Corona was still kind of a small town and didn't just run together with Covina & Riverside & San Berdino in like this one endless mega-suburb. We still had orange groves that wen't for miles, with those big ass eucalyptuses that ran down the service roads to block the wind. Quiet out there with just shit growing. Peaceful to look at...
 
My brother and I would go out there and play, get as lost as we could on purpose and nobody ever bugged us, the farmers knew we weren't gonna mess with anything; like crank those big wheels on the irrigation sluices open and flood the place out like that stupid Petey wound up doing ...... Or that if we fell out of one of those humungous trees our folks weren't going to head straight for some lawyers office, people just didn't think like that. I mean everybody likes to badmouth us out here in California, and maybe there is something to all that "fruits and nuts and flakes" jazz now; But back then---and I don't mean all that long ago---we were about the same as people anywhere, working and having families and trying not to fuck it up too bad...
 
The eucalyptus trees were always dropping these seed things that looked like big dried out green beans, and they smelled funny, musty like, but what really stunk was the huge dairy farm right out behind our lot. Jeez-Louise you wouldn't believe all the flies! Especially in the summer, when Mom would have a strip of sticky fly paper hanging in just about every corner of every room in the house, like some kind of mucky yellow dead-fly wind chimes or ....... what do you call those sculpture things that hang? My mom sure liked art, not that she thought the flypaper was art or anything, although my dad might- Heh! I mean the way he had those dusty stuffed elk and cariboo and bison heads on those badge-shaped base things, up on the walls and on the posts that held up the roof of the showroom for the customers to see. They reminded him of how he'd crossed a couple of oceans once and had some real kick-ass adventures. But they also .......... He would say, half joking and grabbing his lapels like some actor playing some famous old windbag with the tophat and the muttonchops- "Don't let anyone tell you that Man's suprimmacy over the animals isn't a good thing. Whenever you start to feel down or like you're not much in this world, you can always say, 'Well at least I'm lucky enough to be a human and not some damn antelope that any yay-hoo with a rifle has a right to stuff and hang on his wall!'"
 
Dad was the smartest one in the family, but my mom was right behind him, and had a college degree. She could've gotten a job in some museum or something but she hated leaving the house, and was happy to just paint and stuff when she wasn't doing the books or ordering for the business. I guess they're calling what she had "agoraphobia" now, but we just knew she was miserable going out to the store or anywhere, so we went for her. School was okay, I wasn't some great student but I didn't ditch class, I did my time, and did so good in the classes I liked that it sort of made up for the D's I got in English and social studies. And there was this one girl, Carmen Stewart ...... I was like in fifth grade and was positive I'd never have to look any further, love of my life and all that. And then when I dated her for real in high school she was just the biggest bitch, about money and shit, and what her parents did- I'm glad she didn't marry me somehow the first time I asked! But by then I was seeing Julie Newley, who was more of a stoner like me anyway, and who didn't care that I didn't hang out with the "right people" and all that bullshit...
 
In the summer it got so smoggy with all the shit blowing inland from L.A. that it looked like some Japanese print from one of my mom's art books---mobiles, that's what those things are called!---with the trees and bent up hills fading into the mist, only it was smog, so thick you couldn't see past the third telephone pole down, and just as brown as dirt! There wasn't such a thing as a "smog alert" then, and my mom never thought to keep us inside when it got like that, even though my older brother Hamp had athsma and could barely keep up with me sometimes when we rode our bikes all the way out to Irwindale Raceway to watch the eliminations, which were cheaper to get into than the real races they held later in the day. And it was Hamp's idea anyway, he would have got there one way or another. When we were a little older we hitchhiked, until that day old Mr. Voorhause gave us a lift, all nice and smiling ........ but then instead of heading on toward Irwindale the bastard turned and drove us straight home, preaching at us the whole way about "sex monsters", who would imprison boys like us to rape and torture and kill them and stuff. And he was such a creepy old fuck---the strangled way he talked and with that one mossy white eye rolling around blind in his head---I began to wonder if Mr. Voorhause wasn't one of these weirdos he was telling us about. I could tell Hamp was thinking the same thing, and we were glad when he actually took us home instead of turning off toward the quarry or somewhere. And then he was mad that Mom and Dad weren't madder at us about hitchhiking...
 
Now when I say "quarry" you might picture one of those granite pits with the giant steps hacked from the rock, leading down to a lake in the middle where you can sneak in and go swimming, deep enough to dive into from some ledge way up high, like the kids in that movie, whatever it was called. But this thing was just an ugly dent scooped out of the side of a dirt hill, and for swimming we had to go to the Municipal Pool, or sometimes Dad took us all the way to the ocean, to Balboa Peninsula where we could ride our boogie boards while he fished off the pier. Mom stayed home to paint pictures and do her yoga. Her yoga lessons came on long play records, heavy stiff ones in a box that had the weirdest picture on it- all stars and planets and this big spiral of these squiggly things that I always figured were supposed to be souls; it looked like they were going down the drain, to go see God or just disappear if there is no God, I always wondered that, and I always wanted that box for some reason. That picture. Then Dad would put us on a couple of the junky little rides at the Balboa Fun Zone, and then we got those ice milk cones dipped into that stuff that hardens into chocolate. We always did this on Sunday, the only day that STRICKLAND'S WORLD OF WALLS was closed, and that was only when he wasn't out papering somebody's house for a few extra bucks.
 
People would always tell him he worked too hard. And he'd just smile and say, "It's a joy to be able to provide for the people I love!"; the sort of thing you might expect someone who was real religious or something to say, but he wasn't, not at all. Or he was, but he sort of had his own religion. He would try to explain it to us but we were too young, in fact I still don't get a lot of it. When I was about six he told me about the Indomitable Human Spirit, which I got the idea was like some cross between a ghost and the Abominable Snowman, and I couldn't go to sleep without the light in the hall on for another year or so. But even though he worked a lot it wasn't like he was- you know, absent in it, but always let us know he loved us, that we were all a team. Like the Dodgers, only better because nobody owned us. Hamp picked up a little of Dad's lingo; and when some adult would come into the store and see him sweeping up and say something like "I see you're doing your chores", he would smile and go, "It's no chore to be helping my Mom and Dad!" Kind of tongue and cheek about it, knowing it made him sound like a real Goody Two Shoes, but also meaning it...
 
Hamp was really into the whole stock car racing thing, maybe on account of our city having built up around a test track that this early race driver named Barney Oldfield built- a perfectly round street right in the middle of town. Corona means circle. I liked the dragsters, the way they popped up and then took off from a cloud of burning rubber. Hamp liked the funny cars better, but I don't think I ever got over the disappointment of when I first saw them, that they weren't even all that funny, just hotrods with big old air scoops in the hood and maybe headers, and some had goofy names or paint jobs, but they sure weren't what I was expecting- which would have been more like those crazy souped up hearses and garbage trucks that guy used to draw for CARTOONS magazine, that always had some hairy-ass monster kind of stuffed down into them, his tongue hanging out about three feet and covered with sores and his eyes bugged out like he was totally wired, but these cars weren't anything like that, and to me---after how I imagined them---it was kind of a rip. But what was I saying? Something to do with...
 
Not the drag strip, and no not Mr. Voorhaus. I mean he was a goofy son of a bitch, but my dad would get pissed whenever me and Hamp made fun of him, imitated him. Because he couldn't help how he talked, Dad said, and he did loan us a whole bunch of money once when business was really slow. There were a couple of dry spells like that, but then my father would get a night job or something, on top of running the place all day and also doing his Sunday gigs. But all this working and not getting enough sleep was finally too much for him, and he worked himself right into a trip to the hospital!
 
There was no danger of my mom's brother Eustace ever doing that! He was more like the grasshopper than the ant in that old story, or like one of the first two little pigs that didn't a fuck. He had that job at Northrop Aviation in Van Nuys and was making pretty good bread, but he never saved it...
 
So when he got laid off they had to move in with us, him and Bettina and their whole shitload of kids; taking up every room in the house and with Lester and Mark and Petey---who was constantly picking his nose---all crammed into my old room, and me on an old canvas army cot out in the service porch, which Mom kept apologizing for as she was setting me up out there, like I would feel I was getting second class treatment or something, but I actually liked it. You could really hear the rain on the roof, when it rained, and smell the wisteria out in the backyard. Because by now most of the dairy had been sold and the new houses were going up, that wire fence the cows would come wandering up to and stare at us replaced by a high cinderblock wall, which would of wrecked the view except there was nothing to see now, just houses all the way down the valley, and Hamp was stationed on a carrier in the China Sea.
 
He was smart to join the navy, because they would have stuck him somewhere else for sure with the lottery number he got. That was a whole different kind of lottery they had back then, and you only played it because you had to. Carol and Bettina were staying in his room- Uh, not the mom Bettina but the daughter, who Uncle Eustace thought it was funny to call "Bettina the Younger", smiling whenever he said it like we were all supposed to bust out laughing. He tried to pull off the same kind of cagey half-jokes that Dad was so good at, but they came off as sickening somehow, like he was desperate. We started calling her "Bettina the Hunger" when it was just us Stricklands in the room, because she ate up everything in the house and had this annoying knack for snarfling up some cake or something that you had your heart set on like a minute before you got there, and then lying about it right to your face, with crumbs all down her fat belly...
 
Mom felt sorry for her at first, because she was so fat and was obviously was going to stay as unpopular at the high school as she was all that first month, but JESUS! All she ever did was bitch, talking about how Corona was the "armpit" of this or that, like we had all commited some unforgiveable sin by even being out here, for the place even existing, and how bitchen and groovy and happening L.A. was. But I'll be she was never popular back there either. And then she ate something of Mom's that had a piece of paper towel taped over it that said VIVIAN'S- DO NOT EAT! in giant letters, and she tried to say she thought the note was saying that Vivian shouldn't eat it; and when she realized this wasn't gonna work she blew up and called us all a bunch of power-tripping assholes, making them grovel for a few badly cooked meals, and Mom's sympathy for her really dried up after that! And with Petey wiping his boogers everywhere ....... I mean not just underneath a table or someplace like anyone might do, but displaying them right out where you would be sure to find them, like some raunchy old tom cat letting loose wherever it suited him, the top of the big knob on the railing at the foot of the stairs, or the mirror on the medicine cabinet where it looked like he was trying to write his name.
 
And to think Dad had to come home from the nut factory to all this! That's what he called it himself: the nut factory. He had absolutely no shame about having to go there. Hell, he said, it could have been something serious, some long term physical thing that could have wiped out our savings or even killed him. And every one of those doctors had said he wasn't crazy, he just worked too hard and needed to learn to relax. But Uncle Eustace always had some ugly crack to make about it, like this made him totally hot shit and Dad some kind of pathetic weirdo who just couldn't hack it; while he was living under our roof and even borrowing Dad's car to "look for work", which always happened to be the same distance on the odometer as to whatever race track was open and back. Good old Uncle Useless, who was too good for any job he seemed to find, for pushing a mop around Corona somewhere after he'd worked in the Exciting World of Aerospace. Pushing a mop...
 
We took a lot of shit from them, but it was still like the tail end of those days when you took your relatives in, and gave them every chance in the world and then some. That's why there's so many homeless now; it's not the government or even the economy, it's people feeling like they don't owe shit to their own family, not even giving them any welcome to wear out! Dad was the first to see that it couldn't go on like this, because even though Mom was about ready to toss her darling brother and his snooty wife out on their ear, she said it wouldn't be right to make their kids suffer. But from where I stood, I didn't see those brats having a single redeeming quality between the five of them. Aunt Bettina was the only one of that whole bunch that actually helped out sometimes, even if she always had like some recommendation, a "better" way of doing things that kind of put Mom down; and I hate to admit it but she really was a better cook than Mom. Like for instance, Mom always just justed the instant mashed potatoes, and then put in too much water so they were kind of gooey, but Bettina used real potatoes and mashed them up just enough, leaving little strips of the skin in for vitamins and to make it- Oh yeah! That's what I was talking about. The skin...
 
It was when Hamp was home on leave, and Tina was getting all anti-Vietnam all of a sudden---just to be obnoxious, because I know damn well she never gave it a thought before this---that Dad got the idea to wallpaper the little foyer next to the dining room in human skin. Mom said, "Well I don't know, that's murder..."; which got them arguing about all these egghead writers with funny foreign names for almost three hours, until she not only wasn't objecting but was actually jazzed about the idea. You could never win a debate with Dad. And Hamp was into it right from the get-go; like he was finally seeing some action and not just changing tires on jets that someone else flew. He wanted to take the ears with him like the "grunts" do "out in the field"....
 
So Mom put this sleeping powder into some cherry Jello that she always made on Sundays for when we watched The Ed Sullivan Show. The four of us had what was left of the lime from a couple of days before, acting like it was a real sacrifice that we were eating the old Jello and giving them the new stuff. And then we tied them up when they were asleep (which was about the time Sullivan was talking to that dumb Italian mouse puppet that he always had on his show...); all of them except for Uncle Eustace, who had split halfway through Bonanza to go do some goddamn thing, one of his mysterious trips out, which we figured was to go call his bookie from somewhere where we couldn't overhear him. But he was gone for so long they were all awake and screaming by the time he got back, while we were right in the middle of trying to put gags on them, because we didn't have anything to knock them out with now besides a shovel or something, which is what Dad used on his brother-in-law after yelling down the driveway over the sound of them screaming- "Get in here quick, they've all gone into convulsions!"
 
It's a good thing we lived where we did at the end of the block, with the Shell oil pumps beside us and the not-quite-finished new houses in back. Dad looked so peaceful that night, after he knocked Eustace cold, like the whole world had been lifted off his back and he could stand up, look around, and finally take a normal breath. He said something else about animals, about how being human is like a watershed between animals and gods, and some people just let themselves slide down the wrong slope. Not because they don't have the ability to do better---there's no dishonor in that if that's what your problem is---but because they expected other people to carry them. They had no ....... I forget the word he used but I do know there was nothing jokey about it, like his usual down-home philosophizing bit.
 
And then Uncle Eustace woke up, with a giant hump on the whole side of his head- I don't mean like some little bump but like he was trying to grow a whole nother skull inside of there! And he could barely move his mouth, so for once he wasn't saying much, but it was his fault they all suffered and were scared for so long. If he hadn't been off boning Mrs. Lovett from down the block (which is what the police figured out when they finally got all the events of that night pieced together) then the seven of them would've gotten it in their sleep. Mister Lovett was the only person in town besides Julie Newly who was rooting for us when we went to trial. Or well I don't mean me, because of my age I wasn't charged, I went to see the doctors. I could tell what they wanted me to say- how mean to me my folks were and all the different sick shit they did; because those doctors and cops really liked me and wanted me to be like this innocent victim. But it would have been just too finky to sell out Mom and Dad like that. And Julie was real excited by the whole deal, what we did and how we'd gotten all notorious for it. In fact if I do get a visitor that's usually who it is...
 
But anyway we had to wait for my swinging-dick uncle to get back, and then had to leave them tied up some more, for Mom to get back from the 24-hour veterinary clinic with Muffy, because the stupid cat ate some of the Jello. She had to tell the vet that some neighbor's kid tried to poison her.
 
Did I ever tell you about Muffy? She was black with white on three of her paws and at the end of her tail. She liked to sleep on top of the grandfather's clock in the living room but always took off running, scared out of her gourd when the thing would start bonging! You would think she would've figured it out, that the thing was gonna make noise every hour, but she never did. She was sweet but not too bright. When she was just a kitten Hamp and I built this huge castle for her in the back yard that must have had fifty rooms. But then a family of skunks moved into it, and what a mess that was! And the Jello ........ that cat was always eating the weirdest things. She liked tapioca pudding, which I guess has milk in it, so that isn't so weird ........ But she liked grapes, you had to kind of squish them first or they would go rolling all over the place ....... And she liked---Hey, you still awake?---she LOVED Rice Crispies. She liked to lick on bullion cubes ......... she ate those Screaming Yellow Zonkers...
 
 
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written 1996, Reno NV ////// Rewrites 2008, 2009

 

Zonkers Zoned

I read this a couple of times for the sheer fun of it - it was really funny, yet simultaneously sinister and enjoyably messed up. That's a sheer feat you should be proud of, I think it takes huge skill to accomplish that. And for the sheer fun of it, I think I'll read it again.

Fun...

...in an interestingly off-kilter way. Wasn't sure I would read it at all with the "horror" tag and the digressive opening, but I'm glad I did.

The weird part is that it seems so plausible, the way you set it up. There can't be many writers who can do that. (I'm very tempted to add that it might be a good thing.)

Reminded me a bit of Tom Lehrer's song I Hold Your Hand In Mine...

Eric

Screamin' Yellow Zonkers

I remember a song from the 80s, I think sung by either Burl Ives or Shel Silverstein:

Screaming Yellow Zonkers are what I like to eat.
I pour them from their gaudy box and they lie there at my feet.
I like to eat them one by one, I pick them from the floor.
And when they are all gone, I'll surely want some more.

The unbelievable thing to me is I can't find these lyrics anywhere on the web!

Maybe it was Tom Lehrer?

Hugs,
Erin

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