Title: Dastardly Bastard
Author: Edward Lorn
Pub. Date: May 2, 2012
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When war photographer Mark Simmons is sent to do a promo on Waverly Chasm, he assumes it’s a puff piece, a waste of his talents.
Widow Marsha Lake brings her son, Lyle, to help him heal after his father’s death.
Donald Adams, aka H.R. Chatmon, joins the tour to get away from a sticky situation.
Justine McCarthy consents to the hike to placate her boyfriend, Trevor.
For Jaleel Warner, the tour guide, walking the chasm is just part of his job.
Each of these people must face their darkest memories in order to discover and defeat the secret buried in Waverly Chasm.
~Excerpt~MARK SIMMONS WAS SWEATING, WHEEZING, and feeling every bit of his five hundred pounds as he stepped off Corsican International Flight 600. The flight attendant at the gate asked if he was okay when he dropped off his seat belt extender. He waved her off with a limp wrist, staggering toward the seats just inside the departure area. He could’ve bitched about having to buy an extra seat to accommodate his size, but he’d fought that battle, and it never worked out in his favor.
Mark crashed into the plastic chair. The seat screeched and groaned while he tried to get comfortable. His massive rear end flowed over the edges, the steel armrests digging into his love handles.
“Look, Mom!” a little girl squealed. “He’s so fat!”
“Deborah!” The mother offered Mark a soft smile that might’ve said, “Kids say the darnedest things,” before turning to make a call on her cell phone.
The air conditioning from the vent above blew down like a saving grace. Basking in the chilly air, he felt the sweat on his face become gelid. He relaxed back into the hard plastic and worked on his breathing.
One… two… three… four…
He counted his breaths like an insomniac tallying sheep. The routine calmed him. It always did.
Fifteen minutes, and a count of twelve-hundred, finally returned some of Mark’s strength. He still had to walk to baggage claim, then to Hertz, before trekking out into the parking lot to get his rental vehicle. The twenty-hour drive into New York would give him plenty of time to rest. He didn’t need sleep.
He needed the road. When the higher-ups decided there was money to be made in sending their fattest journalist to cover the withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq, Mark hadn’t refused, thinking maybe the time spent there would expedite a promotion. Four months earlier, before he had left for Iraq, he’d started Weight Watchers with the intention of losing fifty pounds in preparation for traveling to one of the hottest climates on Earth. That diet lasted all of two hours, ending in a refrigerator raid that rivaled the Bay of Pigs insurgency. Fallujah hadn’t been as hot as expected, so the failed diet hadn’t hurt him too badly, but most Iraqis studied him with a cautious glare. Mohammad must have spoken of the evils of fat people because those Muslims skirted Mark as if being obese were contagious.
Mark bent forward, using his belly as a counterweight, and pushed himself out of the chair. His hips caught on the armrests, but the forward momentum couldn’t be stopped, and he ripped a belt loop. Cussing under his breath, he looked up and found the little girl—Deborah, her mother had called her Deborah—staring at him. Her tongue lolled from her mouth, eyes crossed, fingers hooked inside her cheeks. She made one hell of a face. Mark smiled, but instead of contorting his own mug in response, he just flipped her off. The look on little Deborah’s face proved him the victor of their little battle.
It’s the little things in life, he thought as he shuffled toward baggage claim.
Deborah’s raised voice faded in the distance as she told her mother about how the fat man had just “made a naughty” with his finger.
~ * * * ~
Mark waited three hours for his single piece of luggage because someone had packed an ounce of Iraqi’s Finest Kush in her suitcase. Customs had a field day with the twenty-something woman, even dragged her off for a full-body. Mark figured he needed to change his career choice. Feeling up hot young females on a regular basis could serve him well. Being an overweight fifty-year-old with a whiskey drinker’s libido, he didn’t get much play. Sure, Private Johnson still stood at attention, but not for long. Doctor Patel said its functionality was being impaired by his gut. No shit. He couldn’t even jack off anymore. His dick-to-arm ratio was sorely impaired by the girth of his stomach, neither being long enough to reach around his rotund midsection.
Finally allowed to procure his belongings, he moved on toward Hertz. He mentally thanked the inventor of the moving floor contraption. The thing wasn’t quite an escalator—escalators, by definition, escalated—but dragged people along at a normal walking pace across a smooth section of floor. He didn’t know what the hell to call the tank-track looking device. A lazy person’s treadmill?
He overcame his body’s inertia and stepped off the treadmill, almost losing his balance in the process. He caught himself on the chrome banister at the end of the track.
Hertz was off to the left, set back into the wall like a bank teller’s booth. The skinny Goth girl behind the counter looked to be no more than fifteen or sixteen, but Mark settled on at least eighteen, as she would have to be able to sign paperwork for her customers. She had purple hair and a glimmering diamond booger attached to the outside of one nostril. Her black lipstick screamed Elvira.
“Can I help you?” Gothy asked when Mark approached the counter.
“I have a reservation.”
“Name?” she requested, readying her fingers over the keyboard.
She snickered.“Sorry. Customer service humor.”
“Ah.” Mark didn’t get the joke, but he nodded politely all the same.
She asked for his address, license, and credit card information. He gave it all to her and waited until she updated everything before asking, “You do have a minivan, right?”
“Oh, sorry, really, but all I have is a Prius and a Kia.”
“Is the Kia at least an SUV?”
She sucked air through her teeth, whistling through a gap he hadn’t noticed. “No. It’s a two-door.”
“Did you happen to notice how big I am? How I waddle instead of walk? Jesus, if I chanced wearing corduroy pants, I’d start a darned fire. I can’t fit in either one of those cars… Melody,” Mark said, reading her name badge.
“I’m sorry.” She shrank away, smiling nervously.
“Oh, sweet Hey-Zues!” He slapped the counter, causing Melody to jump.
A man with a handlebar mustache, dressed in Hertz garb and looking very serious, stepped out from a door behind the counter. “Is there a problem, Melody?”
“Yeah, because I’m not standing right here,” Mark scoffed. “Mind asking me if I have a problem, Fred?”
Fred put on his best customer service smile and came to the desk. “Can I help you, sir?”
“Yes, Fred. I need a bigger car than what Melody is offering me. I reserved a minivan.”
“The cars are first come, first served, Mr. Simmons,” Fred said, leaning over and looking at the computer. “I should have one back today, though. Right after five o’clock, looks like. Do you care to wait?”
Mark looked at the digital clock behind the duo’s heads and saw that it was just after four. He couldn’t believe it. He’d have to get used to the time difference again, but in reverse.
“I suppose I can wait around for an hour.”
Melody made that sucking sound with her teeth again.
Mark almost reached across the counter to slap her. “Now what?”
“That’s five… p.m.,” Fred corrected.
“Ah, fuck all.” Mark sighed, defeated. “Gimme the darned Prius.”
~About the Author~
Edward Lorn is an American horror author presently residing somewhere in the southeast United States. He enjoys storytelling, reading, and writing biographies in the third person.
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