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  • Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    by Craig Terlson

    A collection of short stories where the humour runs dark and the slipstream bubbles up.

     

    ...imagine if Raymond Carver called up George Saunders and Joe Lansdale, and they all went drinking with Neil Gaiman.

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    Correction Line
    by Craig Terlson

    “… it's clear that Terlson is way ahead of the curve in terms of crafting an engaging premise that reaches for elevated territory and reinvents enduring archetypes of action and suspense.”  J. Schoenfelder


    "Sometimes brutal, often demanding and always complex, this novel will repay the reader who likes their assumptions challenged and is happy to walk away from a book with minor questions unanswered but the big ones definitely dealt with! It’s likely to satisfy those who enjoy Hammet and/or Philip K Dick and who like their fiction very noir indeed."   Kay Sexton

     

    "I love a novel that you can't put down, and this is one of them."  L. Cihlar

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Friday
Aug032012

Doc

I awoke staring into a clipboard that hovered above my face. The guy wasn't wearing anything that would identify him as a doctor but I figured he had to be – he had that look of someone that studied your personal areas. A curvy woman with horn rimmed glasses and a rat’s nest of hair stood next to him.

"I said do you often have this loss of conciousness?"

"Sorry?"

He looked at the woman, she grimaced, he said something under his breath.

"I see. You have had another one. Do you remember coming in here? They said you were in a diner." His thick gray mustache danced as he spoke. "You don't seem to have any injuries, except for that nasty cut on your forearm. I thought about stiching it but thought that —"

Three parallel steri-strips were pasted against the partially scabbed over gash. 

"Shit. My knee!" 

I threw back the white sheet, unaware of my nakedness. The woman didn't turn away but lurched forward, her eyes widened.

"You have been having problems with your knee?"

I ran my hands along the smooth, unbroken skin covering my left kneecap. I glanced at my right, just in case I was wrong. Neither of them had a scratch.

The doctor glanced at the clipboard. "Have you had problems with an addictive substance? Previous psychological treatment? Exhibitionist tendencies?" 

The woman smiled at me.

I brought the sheet back to cover myself.

"Who brought me here?"

"You were in your truck," said the still smiling, kind of leering, woman.

"I'm Doctor Little. Don't you recall our previous conversation?" 

I closed my eyes and tried to remember. Her face grew large in my mind.

"The woman, with the really white skin… where is she?"

The looks on their faces told me that if I didn't start making sense, they'd be ordering a full brain scan and psychotic stripdown.

"Really, Mr. Stilton—"

"Who is Mr. Stilton? That's not my name."

"Oh," a quick glance over to Francine,"there was a note, in your pants, we assumed that was you."

"What note?"

"Mr. Stilton, if you have a previous condition it would help us diagnose any…"

“Stop calling me that.”

I threw back the sheet and swung my legs over the bed.

"Where's my pants?"

Francine, taking in another eyeful, turned away when I met her gaze. She went into an adjoing room and came back with my jeans. She laid them on the bed. They were dirty, but bloodstain free.

"Underwear?"

"I'm sorry, we cut those off, we had to see if you had some internal injury that would account for your, uh, condition." The man ran his hand over his mustache and coughed.

"Wait a second, what kind of doctor are you?" I took a quick glance around the room, no tongue depressors, no blood pressure machine, and it had a funny smell. The poster of the hanging kitten clinched it. "You're a vet!"

"Well, of course. The only medical doctor we have comes by every two weeks, unless there's an emergency. We thought of calling her but we couldn't find anything that would warrant her…"

"Am I done here?" I wanted to ask why they hadn't cut off the jeans. Something in Francine's face told me it was her decision to slice the underwear.

"You're free to go anytime. But don't you think you should stay a bit? We could call the other doctor if you wish."

I pulled on my jeans, riding bareback, what the hell. 

"My wallet? Or did you have to cut that too?" I glared at Francine. 

She scurried into the other room and came back with my keys and my wallet. 

"If you wanted to find out who I was why didn't you just—" I stopped as I flipped through several bills and the faded photo I'd been carrying for years. 

"Something missing?" The vet asked.

"Where is it?"

"I assure you, we took nothing. What are you missing?"

"Which one of you swiped my I.D.?"

"We wondered why you didn't have any."

"Until we found the note," Francine reached into her breast pocket and took out a folded yellow square. She handed it to me, her fingertips staying a few extra seconds on my palm.

I read it. We found this man sitting outside his truck on the side of the road. He said his name was Stilton, then passed out. Please help him. We have to leave for a family reunion. It was signed Chris and Kelly. A smiley-face was drawn at the bottom. 

"We were gone at lunch and when we came back there you were in your truck. Out cold. I guess these people drove you and your truck here and then left."

"For a reunion." Francine added.

There was no phone number or address on the note. The letters were hard to read, a pen almost out of ink – under the smiley-face there was another word that I couldn’t make out.

"What does this say?"

"We couldn't figure that out either. Francine has a guess."

"Clarkesville."

"Never heard of that, where?"

Francine gave an awkward smile. "You know, like that old song."

My head had started pounding ever since I gained consciousness. It now threatened to burst and spray brain matter across the vet's office.

“You have any pain killers?”

“Mr. Stilton, we cannot give medication without –”

“Just some damn aspirin.”

Francine fished around in her pocket and brought out a blister pack. Doc gave her look and started to say something. I pushed him aside, grabbed the pills, and jammed the note in my pocket.

"You should stay and get checked out," Francine urged. “People aren’t all that different than dogs.”

“I’ve had all my shots.”

Francine ran her tongue over her lips and I hit the door running. The doc yelled out the door that I should go get checked out by my regular doctor. I spun out of the lot, spitting gravel chunks at the sign with the little dog and cat in doctor outfits.

I pushed the speedometer on the truck as far as it would go, keeping one eye on the temp guage. I popped the pills out of the pack and downed them. I trusted horny Francine that they were actually for pain, not flea and heartworm. The road ahead shimmered – in the distance a pair of buildings looked like splotches of overripe fruit against a sky the exact shade of the empty ice cube holders in my fridge back home. It was a weird thing to remember. I hardly remember what the place looked like. As I whipped by them I spied a thin man on scaffolding, slapping orange paint with a huge brush. I could see the droplets spash and hang in the air before settling on the weathered surface

I urged the pedal down farther – having no idea where I was going, if I'd find the sedan again, what I'd do if I found it. I flipped the switch on my radio and my cab filled with harsh guitar rock and some guy screaming. I turned it up and pushed the speed over 85. The temp guage jerked.

I passed a green pontiac, driven by a redneck with a buzz cut and a tattoo of the queen on his neck. As fast I was going, certain images moved in slow perfect clarity – like some Einstein relativity problem, I perceived moving objects as standing still. But the large grainery in the distance appeared to be moving away from me. I squeezed my eyes shut for a second, and tried to refocus. When I opened them again there it was, the black sedan, it popped out of nowhere, less than a quartermile ahead. There were no access roads that I could see – it was like it dropped out of the sky. Somehow, I knew I'd come across it. Just like last time. And maybe some other times that I couldn’t remember. 

I pulled in close behind, following the s-curve of the road, and tried to peer into the back window. The sheen on the glass reflected back light, not like a mirrored surface, but fragmented like from that cheap mactac for bathroom windows.

The grainery pulled in front of us after the curve. That’s what it looked like. Spireton. A handmade sign was drilled into the post underneath the town name – Corn and Bacon Festival, Aug. 3-5. The sedan pulled into the lot of the Spireton Hotel. I followed.

I watched the back door open and a white leg appear. I started to wonder if that Vet had give me some sort of sedative. Movement was still playing tricks on my eyes. Trails of colour swept behind her legs as she approached the truck. I rolled down the window.

"Come on in. You look like you need a drink."

The sedan idled. I cranked my neck and tried to see inside.

"Just the two of us."

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