With Just a Hint of Mayhem by C. Dennis Moore by C. Dennis Moore - Read Online

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This book collects in one place C. Dennis Moore's first three short story collections, "Terrible Thrills", "Icons to Ashes" and "Dancing on a Razorblade". Over 350 pages of short horror fiction from the author Cemetery Dance Magazine called "an author worth keeping an eye on."

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ISBN: 9781516326358
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With Just a Hint of Mayhem - C. Dennis Moore

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MATERIALS

Horror author C. Dennis Moore returns with his first short story collection, the one that prompted CEMETERY DANCE magazine to call him an author worth keeping an eye on. When the original publisher went out of business, the book went out of print, but now it’s back in both print and ebook formats to once again invite readers on 25 terrifying journeys.

In TERRIBLE THRILLS, Moore packs a punch with some of his shortest stories (3500 words or less), proving brevity really is the key to effective communication. The horrors inside include a late night Halloween attraction that traps half a dozen people in an underground catacomb. Lost in the dark with no way out, one guest treads a dark path into madness and paranoia in a story that combines the atmosphere of Edgar Allan Poe with the scares of Stephen King.

In The Son of Man, three friends discover a living, growing creature is forming in the clouds outside one of their houses. And while the whispered words echoing through their heads usually inspire hope in the faithful, this time the friends aren’t so sure it doesn’t spell their doom.

Plaything and Parliament of Jim take wildly different looks at the question of identity and free will, while The Stand-In poses the question How much does where we come from determine where we’re going? as the narrator tries to track down his birth father, an abusive psychopath out for revenge.

In Working for the Fat Man, an immortal Santa Claus uses the names on his Naughty list to feed his powers, but what happens if he slips up and nabs one of the Nice kids instead?

In the Town of Broken Dreams watches the town of Yellow Brook, KS as they chase down and execute a mysterious stranger, then live with the consequences of their actions as everyone in town slowly succumbs to the bad luck that follows.

TERRIBLE THRILLS is a collection of horror fiction from the man author Kealan Patrick Burke called one of the suspense genres best kept secrets.

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PRAISE FOR TERRIBLE THRILLS:

C. Dennis Moore is a writer well worth watching, if for no other reason than to say you were reading him long before he hit the big time, as he is certainly destined to.

—Kealan Patrick Burke, Stoker Award-winning author of The Turtle Boy, The Hides, and Vessels

C. Dennis Moore has the unusual ability to connect with readers. I have to wonder why, with his ability to shock with everyday fascination and superb craft, he isn't famous yet across our dark, dark world. But he will be.

—Charlee Jacob, Stoker Award-winning author of Dread in the Beast, Wormwood Nights, and Haunter

Author C. Dennis Moore definitely knows his way around a short story. His mastery of the form is especially evident in the two dozen examples comprising his debut collection, Terrible Thrills ... The flash fiction works like a sucker punch to the eye, but the longer stories—given Moore's economy with words—allow him to drag us through quite a range of terrors.

—Craig Clarke, Craig’s Book Club

Moore builds the suspense with an excellent eye for detail as if it’s actually happening. I wondered if stories like Inside were monsters born of nightmares he’s had. A strange, fertile mind indeed.

—ePinions

The consistent improvement in his work over the years, as well as his ability to seamlessly shift from the mundane to the surreal, indicate an author worth keeping an eye on.

—Garrett Peck, Cemetery Dance Magazine

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TERRIBLE

THRILLS

C. DENNIS MOORE

DEDICATION

This book is for Jacob, Caleb and Charli, my own Terrible Thrills

Author’s Note

With the exception of Preparations, which was written somewhere between Bob’s Leg and Winter’s Reign, the stories in this collection are presented in the order in which they were written, spanning the years between 1991-2005.  For this collection, I chose only the shortest stories, those 3500 words or less.

While Preparations and Astrid Like a Candle have the same characters, the stories are completely unrelated.  The Strange Thing that Happened at the SpinCycle  Laundry, The Salvation of Victor, and The Flesh-Method & Myriad however, are connected and are part of a longer work called Revelations.

C. Dennis Moore: Who In The Hell Do You Think You Are?

(an introduction by Steve Vernon)

C. Dennis Moore.  It's not even his real name.  He's reinvented it.  I could tell you what his real name really is, but then he'd have to kill me, so I won't.  It's a secret.

Another secret is how I met this guy.  I really can' t remember.  He just sort of arrived in my life one day.  It was kind of like waking up one morning with the taste of sawdust and regurgitated barley water on your breath and a tattoo of your great aunt Mildred's left butt cheek on your bicep.

I expect I met him on one of those message boards I habitually frequent.  You know the places.  Disreputable dives of cyber-tawdriness, inhabited by a variety of shady anonymous characters known only by nicknames such as Circus Cranium, SaTTeRNo 1, and the nefarious CDM.

The acquaintanceship stuck, in much the same way the tattoo would have.  We became e-buddies.  He invited me into a couple of nifty little literary ventures, notably his Book Of Monsters and Diavolo's sadly defunct Project M: zine.  He reviewed a couple of my efforts and I reviewed a couple of his and the friendship spread like crabgrass.

Can't you feel the love?

And all of this time I've never met the man or seen a single verifiable photograph.  For all I know he might be a mutant Inuit lovegod, or a crossdressing heifer fetishist, or a singularly nondescript undiscovered serial killer.

Which brings us back to that whole identity question.  Who in the hell does this guy think he is?

A lot of the stories in this collection seem to be dealing with that sort of problem.  Questions of identity.  In fact some of these tales are steeped so thickly in identity angst, that they'd give a light-tripping Philip K. Dick pause for serious thought.

Take a look at Plaything, Parliament of Jim, Astrid Like A Candle, Mistress or The Stand-In and then pause to take a long look at a mirror to make certain that it's really still you in there, staring back.

Or what about the Mobius strip of Inside.  You won't know if you're coming or going.  And you'll want to take a serious sedative before subjecting yourself to the stereophonic sensurround nastiness of the tale that gave its name to this collection.  Or read The Son Of Man and then try to look at a cloudy sky without seeing the harbinger of the apocalypse.

Lastly, I have to recommend the haunting little yarn, In The Town Of Broken Dreams.  Sounds like a darned country song, doesn't it?  Let me tell you, it's twice as scary as anything Garth Brooks ever gargled out.

So who in the hell is C. Dennis Moore?  Well, for one thing, he's a good buddy.  He's stood by me many a time, boosted my spirits when I felt like crap, and talked me down out of numerous literary hanging trees; and he's a damned good writer to boot.

Thanks Dennis, (I won't spill the beans that your real name is Lester Poindexter Murgatroyd Bumtussle), for giving me the opportunity to air my thoughts.  I've got to tell you, it's been a terrible thrill.

Yours in horror,

Steve Vernon

PREPARATIONS

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Mr. Seagle, a timid man, entered the office, took his hat in his hands, introduced himself, and was asked to take a seat.

I need to make preparations, he said. My wife's died recently, and I...

Yes, Mr. Perry said from across his desk. We can arrange everything, don't worry.

Mr. Seagle's face showed relief. Now I want everything perfect, no cost spared. It's the least I can do. She was a wonderful wife.

Yes, Mr. Perry smiled. Perfection, of course. We'll make sure, Mr. Seagle, that everything is perfect. Let us take care of the details. Now, may I ask the cause of death?

Lung cancer.

And where is she currently? Mr. Perry had taken out a clipboard and was writing on a form as he spoke.

At home. It was just a few hours ago. I was told I should get this underway as soon as possible.

Yes, Mr. Perry said, making a note on the form. And her name?

Astrid.

Mr. Perry wrote, and commented, A very beautiful name.

Yes, Mr. Seagle said, twisting his hat, it's Norse.

How many guests will you be expecting? Mr. Perry's eyes were glued to his form. He'd done this countless times and could fill out the whole sheet without looking, but he was thorough.

I don't know, exactly. She had many friends.

Can you estimate? It's very important.

At a guess, he thought a second, I'd say, maybe...a dozen?

And can you give me your wife's height and weight?

Mr. Seagle's grey eyes roamed the wall behind Mr. Perry's head as his mind worked. He didn't want to guess too small, but, out of respect, he didn't want to guess too big. Finally he said, She's about five six. I think close to a hundred and twenty pounds, give or take a few.

Kind of small, Mr. Perry said, still filling out his sheet. And when were you hoping to have this?

As soon as possible, Mr. Seagle said. I don't want to wait too long. Decay, you know.

Yes, Mr. Perry agreed, it's always better sooner than later.

He passed the form to Mr. Seagle who signed and dated it. While the widower passed it back, Mr. Perry buzzed his receptionist and told her to have Mr. Mignola accompany Mr. Seagle back to his home. And have him bring the rib spreader, please.

What's the rib spreader for? Mr. Seagle asked, worry shadowing his features.

We'll have to remove the lungs, Mr. Seagle, Mr. Perry said. We can serve the rest of her, but no one's going to want to eat cancer-ridden lungs.

Oh, yes, Mr. Seagle said. I understand.

We'll have this dinner ready by 8:00, is that okay? Mr. Perry asked, standing and coming around to walk Mr. Seagle to the door. Relax, and let us handle everything. You won't be disappointed.

Thank you very much, Mr. Seagle said, shaking the other man's hand. I appreciate everything.

IN THE VEINS

––––––––

And he was gone.  Our guide had done his job this Halloween night; he'd led the lot of us down into the Catacombs beneath Angel Hill, through the black corridors and tunnels, winding this way and that, back and forth with no obvious rhyme or reason to his twists and turns, Rebecca holding tight to my arm, until we reached a stretch of tunnel, black as pitch.

Now, halfway down this corridor, he slips away, unnoticed and unheard until the band of us emerge at the other end into a hallway that's lit by what seems to be a two-watt bulb.

We knew he'd slip away sometime during the trip—that's what we paid for—but we hadn't known when it would happen, and coming out the other end of that black hole to find ourselves guideless gives us all a quick shock. Then we get our nerves under control and begin the second half of our journey: to find our way out.

I imagine this part to be like the knights in the legend, searching for the Holy Grail, except our grail is rectangular, with a door that opens to fresh air.

The first, and most obvious solution, is to backtrack.  Maybe our guide pressed himself against the opposite wall and let us slip past him, then sneaked out the way we came in.  If so, and if we're fast enough, maybe we can catch up to him and try to quietly follow him out.

Halfway back through the tunnel we realize that won't happen; sliding back along the wall we had just traveled down, we discover a locked door.  None of us had noticed it coming down the first time because, before the tunnel, our guide had moved to the right of the hall, told us all to hold on to avoid falling in the dark, and led the way.  By way of his example, we all touched the right side of the tunnel, the pores in the concrete tickling our fingertips.  We also find the tunnel has a curve to it, which had kept us from using the light at the other end of the tunnel to see him disappear.  He's probably outside now, preparing the next group of thrill-seekers, breathing the crisp autumn air instead of this stale, recycled stuff.

In a darkness as absolute as the one surrounding us tonight, the world has no boundaries.  No concrete edges, no space or distance.  Tonight, in this darkness, I realize light has sound.  No amount of silence is ever truly silent.  But in the middle of this void, the silence can be heard for unknown distances; in the breathing of people you can't see; in the ringing you realize is always in your ear but is usually drowned out by the sound of sight; in the chorus of sounds your stomach makes while the burrito you had for lunch digests.

And the darkness has mass you can feel in the unaccountable sense that there's something just beyond your perimeter sneaking up, its fingers outstretched, almost touching you with one razor-like claw before drawing back and sparing you.

Lost in these thoughts and revelations, I flinch when I hear a voice.

We'd have a better chance of getting out, someone in the group suggests, if we did it, not as one large group, but as a couple of smaller groups.

But how many groups? someone else asks.

How many of us are there?

Everyone touch the person in front of you.  Whoever's in front, count 'one,' then back.

There were ten of us.

Okay, ten, says the first person.  Let's say, five groups of two.  That'll keep anyone from being alone down here.

My group consists of myself and my girlfriend, the reason I'm even here in the first place: Rebecca.

With the countless number of tunnels, we doubt any two groups will run into each other.

How about, suggests a third voice, we send four people back the way we came, in case the exit is that way.  The other six can look for it ahead.  That ought to, at the very least, give us more room to maneuver.

Rebecca and I are part of the forward six.

We venture ahead, slowly, uncertainly, holding the wall when we come to a patch of black tunnel, shuffling our feet through the pitch blackness, taking uncounted rights, uncountable lefts, winding through a maze that I pictured as like a series of concrete veins beneath the city, enjoying to the fullest the few times we come upon a dim light nestled in the wall, quiet in the passageways, aware of every noise, every breath, noticing the smallest changes in the air.  We stay in single-file formation, moving down the halls and tunnels, keeping all our senses focused on one goal: Find the exit—that Holy Grail.

We come to a split in the corridor, each side leading to a different unlit tunnel.

Let's split again, a voice, the night's first speaker, says.  We have to cover all the ground we can.

We split again, one group of two, another of four.  Again, Rebecca and I are part of the larger group.  The four of us take the left passage, stepping into another unknown.  Unfortunately, this unknown smells of piss.

A few seconds into this tunnel, and a curve in the hall cuts off the light.

Hang on a second, says one of the bodiless voices.  The sound bounces off the walls and sounds five times louder in  the tunnels, echoing back to us.  I wonder if there's— the voice begins.  Yeah.  I thought so.  There's another door over here.  But this one's locked, too.

So we just find another way, Rebecca says, her voice ringing from the acoustics.

I wonder how many doors are hidden in these tunnels, Voice One says.  I mean, if each of these doors leads to the exit, they must weave between the halls of the Catacombs.  Can you imagine how many tunnels must be down here?  It may take hours to get out of here, to find the way, just by going through all these tunnels.  Without a map, or at least knowing how many tunnels there are, the chances of getting out any time soon can't be good.

But they have these tours ever Halloween, Voice One's partner says.  I think I heard that if anyone's down here more than ninety minutes, they send people to find them.

But how can they find anyone with only a couple of people?  There must be hundreds of different routes someone could take.

And I finally understand the situation I'm in.  Only one way out, possibly hundreds of ways to get lost, and nearly no light.  Trapped in the dark, in a life-sized maze.  Trapped in the veins beneath Angel Hill.  God only knows where I am or what’s down here with me.  You think I don’t know about this town?  People talk.

What if we get lost and they can't find us? Rebecca asks.

I remember hearing about something like that before, Voice One says.

Hey, I say, that story was bullshit.  Someone started that just to freak everyone out, like the tombstone that supposedly belonged to a witch and glows at night.

But I read it in the paper, Rebecca says.

Right next to an Elvis sighting, I suggest.

He's right, Speaker Two says.  None of us were here, so none of us really know.  Let's just get out of here.

Okay, Voice One agrees, but if your feet bump anything, or you smell a Godawful odor . . . I tried to tell you.

I want to get out of here, I want an exit.  But standing around won't get me there.  I have to pick 'em up and lay 'em down.  Easy as that.  But still, my scary bone tingles at the thought of stumbling upon a dusty heap of thrill-seeker-past.

Leaving the door, we make a few more lefts, one or two rights, and then there's another fork.  Perhaps leading deeper into the heart of the Catacombs.

We'll take the right one, Voice One says.

The lovers can have the left, Speaker Two agrees.

So they leave us alone, disappearing into the right corridor.  We look at each other, shrug at the circumstances, and step in.

We find another door in this tunnel, also locked.

Christ, I say, how long can it possible take to get out of here?

Probably about a hundred minutes at most, Rebecca says.  Too long down here and they send the search party, but I'm betting it takes a while to find everybody.

Well, I don't feel like waiting that long.  Why did you want to come here, anyway?

Because this is the last year.  After tonight, that's it, no more Catacombs, they're closing it down.  Don't you want to be a part of history?

No.  I always hated history.  I like science better.

But this'll be something you can tell your children about, or your grandchildren.

We have to get out of here before we can have children.

What's this 'we'?

I hate when she talks like that.  She almost constantly tries to test me, teasing me, hinting that we may not be together very long.  I know it's possible, but she only does it for spite.  And in the Catacombs, I'm in no mood for her badgering.

Don't start that shit, all right? I just want to find the way out.  I don't feel like arguing about that crap again.  Not now.

What's up your ass? she asks, defensive, as if I'm the one trying to start the fight.

Nothing, I say, trying to remain calm as we make our way through the blackness.  Let's just get out of here.

Fine.  She huffs, and I hear her fold her arms the way she always does when I'm being mean to her.

Coming out of the tunnel we're arguing through, we step out into a small, lighted room, for lack of a better word.  It's a small area, square, with hallways branching off from every side.  My eyes are used to the dark and this yellowing bulb seems blinding.

So, she says, her anger gone, almost instantly like always, which way?

You pick.

Right.

We turn right and walk down the hall, running a hand along the wall.  We walk down this corridor, come to the end, and turn left.  We go down this other hall and come to another turn.  Stepping around the corner, we hit a dead end.  We wasted over five minutes of walking, three hallways, and all we have to show for it is a fucking dead end.

Motherfucker! I yell at the walls.  My voice bounces back at me and continues down the hall.  I look at Rebecca, my eyes accusing her, if not my words.

You left it up to me, she says, as if it's my fault we found a dead end.

Forget it, I say.  We head back to the crossroads.

We walk on, going left here, right there, right again, left once more, straight ahead.

What if someone were to get lost down here?  Better yet, what if a claustrophobic got lost down here?  Then I think of the supposed lost one—had he been a claustrophobic?  Everyone knows the story is a hoax, but still . . . just the thought of it.  And what if, just what if, it's true?  What if there were the rotted, skeletal remains of a thrill-seeker who'd come here for a good time, got lost, and died in the Catacombs?  And what if, were he found, no one bothered to bury him, because he'd died already in the coffin of the Catacombs?  Would they find him with his bony remains facing the wall, his hands, fingers open, clawing away at the concrete?  And would they find dried blood on the walls where he'd clawed so hard, so desperately, that he scraped away the flesh of his fingertips?

Shut up, I scream at myself, gritting my teeth.  There is no lost thrill-seeker. There is no one besides the ten of us that came down here.  And who knows how many, if any, of them have already found the way out?

But how can I keep going knowing there's a dead body down here?

I realize my hair brushes the top of the tunnel.  I can almost touch both sides of the tunnel at the same time.

I decide that if I keep moving and don't think about claustrophobia, it won't bother me.  We make lefts here, rights there, go straight in other places.

But the longer I spend underground, the more frightened I become.  My shirt feels sticky against my back and tight around the throat.  I have trouble breathing, and my head pounds.  Something places a clamp over my chest and tightens.  The fear seems to flow through my veins, as if it has attained mass.

Don't think about it, my mind says.  Think about what?  About how low the ceiling really is?  Where the hell is that exit?  Don't think.  Go left, left, right, left, right.  Don't think.  Left, go straight, right.  Pick 'em up and lay 'em down.

I'm almost hyperventilating.  The clamp tightens over my ribcage.

Don't think.  Walk.  Keep moving.  Go.  Left, right, right, straight, left, right, left, left.  Turn here, go straight up there.

I stop.

What? Rebecca asks.  Did you find another door?  Is it unlocked?

No, I manage to croak.

What's wrong?

I can't answer.  I don't have an answer.  I just can't move.  Finally I manage, No door.

Then why did we stop?

Can't breathe.  And I can't.  It's like someone has filled my lungs with syrup.  Each inhalation takes twice as much effort as it should and the breath slips out all too quickly.  My mouth tastes like battery acid and the air smell like sweat.

I lean against the wall and slide down to a squat.

Oh, God, Rebecca says.  Don't freak out on my.  I don't know how to get out of here.

I want to tell her if I knew the way out, we would have been there by now.  But my lungs are clogged, the clamp still round my chest.  I begin to wheeze.

You okay?  Can you make it? she asks.

I don't answer.  I wheeze another breath.  Maybe if I just sit for a second.

She panics and says, I'll try to find someone.  And she's gone, running and shouting down the hall, and I'm left alone in the dark.  Wheezing.  Am I going to die?  I can't believe she abandoned me here.

The thought comes again of the Catacombs as a huge networks of veins, and fear is the blood flowing through them, running endlessly through the arteries  in a huge loop of infinity.

I hold my breath for as long as I can, then, on the exhale, as the air rushes out, I use the force to scream.

REBECCA!

Naturally I get no answer.  Then, faintly, I think I hear her calling me.  She's far away.  Or maybe she's only as far as the other side of the wall behind me.  Who knows?  At least I know she's still here.

This makes me feel a little more comfortable.  Not a lot, but a fraction.  A small fraction.

I can't believe I agreed to come down here.  What's more, I can't believe I've freaked out like this.  I was fine, a little edgy, but I could breathe and walk, until I started thinking about that stupid lost one shit.

I hear Rebecca calling me again.  Her tone sounds worried.  I think she's lost.  I wish she were here with me.  Why did she just up and go like that?  What the hell was she thinking?

Rebecca shouldn't have left like she did.  That was stupid.  Did she think she could find the way out and send someone to help me?  It's a nice thought, but she's also the one who led us into a dead end.  I hear her call again.  She sounds terrified now.  If I thought I could find her, I'd do it.  But I know it would be pointless.  Best just to wait until the search party comes.

Will they find me alive?  Or will I have scraped my fingers raw from trying to scratch my way through the walls?  Will anyone, years from now, man down here with his girlfriend, freak out like I did thinking about some dead lost one who might happen to be me?  When I'm dead, will the story of my trip to the Catacombs become legend, too?  No.  I remember now, they close the Catacombs after tonight.

Oh, Rebecca, when we get out of here, provided we're still alive, I'm going to kill you.  Why did you leave?

Because this, obviously, is my destiny, the way things were supposed to be.

She calls out to me again.  Or maybe it's the Catacombs calling me home.  I've heard stories of dying people thinking they hear dead relatives calling to them.  The clamp on my chest releases and falls clanking to the concrete floor.  I stand, slowly.  My knees pop.  They ache.  I put my hand against the wall and feel my way down the corridor.  I turn a corner.  Another corner.  Another.  I'm not worried anymore about being lost; I've been there already.

I hear a voice up ahead, then I realize I'm hallucinating.  I know this because what I hear is Sir Percival telling King Arthur that the king and the land are one, from the movie Excalibur.

I wonder if Rebecca got out yet.  Sweet Rebecca.  Sweet, stupid Rebecca.  I hope you forgive me for the bad things I've thought about you.

I think I'll wander for a while.  I'm not afraid anymore, not of the Catacombs.  They can't hurt me.  I've known them too long,

(You and the land are one)

been a part of them too long.  The Catacombs are in my blood, coursing through my veins, as I course through them.  I see them with new eyes, or maybe older eyes—the original lost one's, perhaps.  The grey cement walls show scenes of beauty in their trowel strokes and the dampness in the air is welcoming.

The dark surrounds me, and the chill of the air tickles my arms.  Maybe I'll try to find the lost one.  Maybe I'll lay him to rest so I can properly take his place.

I think I hear the footsteps of the search party going through the tunnels, perhaps looking for me.  But they won't find me.  I'm King Arthur, and the Catacombs are my land.

I'm the lost one, and I've always been here.

THE STRANGE THING THAT HAPPENED AT THE SPINCYCLE LAUNDRY

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The SpinCycle Laundry and Linen started its business day at nine sharp, like every other company in downtown Millageville (except on Saturdays when the day began at noon and ended at five).  The day of Harris's accident was no different.

In fact, everything about the beginning of that day was business as usual.  Mr. Kyle, one of the press operators who had been with the company for more than fifteen years and had earned the title Mr., complained that the presses felt stiff.  If those aren't taken care of, we won't be able to pull them down with a hundred pound weight, he griped.  And if that happens, Mr. Kyle warned, we might as well close the doors and cancel all order.  He knew because, It happened in '90.  That was Mr. Kyle's response to everything; whatever might happen, it had happened before, back in (insert year of incident here).

While Mr. Kyle spent the morning complaining, Harris and I stood by the dryers, stuffing bundles of sheets and towels into them like we were feeding some giant, voracious baby.

Bored with the monotony, I asked Harris, Think Mr. Hendrickson's wife is gonna find out about him and that redheaded bookkeeper up the street?

Don't know, Harris said.  Hand me that other bundle, will you?

Sure, I said, dropping the attempted conversation and rolling a basket of damp sheets to him.  Harris was that rare, but valuable, breed of worker who possessed the ability to shut out the world and concentrate on the job at hand.  He could be a bore sometimes, especially during those drawn-out days you think will go on forever, but I liked him.

He grabbed handfuls of sheet and shoved them into the dryer.

About forty-five minutes before lunch, the bundles dwindled.  Neither Harris nor I were working any faster than usual, but we were ahead, which was unusual.  Harris noticed it too.

What's going on? he called over my shoulder to the guys at the machine behind me.

I looked over and saw four men standing around one of the washers, looking as if it had just appeared from nowhere.  One of the men, Adkins, shrugged.  Harris put the bundle in his hand back into the basket and walked to the washer.

It's broken, said Bremmer, the man assigned to the washer in question.  It won't run.

Adkins gave Bremmer a look.  Really, genius?  Thanks.

Bremmer regarded Adkins with a frown and walked past him.  He went to the back of the machine and fiddled with something.  He tried to turn it on, but all he got was a winding groan.  I glanced and saw Mr. Kyle watching the action and nodding.

Hell, that could be anything, Harris complained.  He wheeled and tall, red tool chest away from the wall over to the washer.  Move, he ordered Bremmer, who did as directed.

Harris bent down behind the washer, unplugged it, removed the back panel and reached inside.  I could see his head bobbing over his slumped shoulders.  Normally, when something goes wrong in a place like the SpinCycle, there's a maintenance crew on hand to take care of it, but normally a place like the SpinCycle isn't as small as the SpinCycle.  Normally there's more employees, more business, and more town than Millageville and her surrounding, smaller towns.  Besides, Harris was one of the most mechanically inclined people at the SpinCycle, and I was sure he'd have the washer running again by lunch.

Thirty minutes later, Harris had checked the lines, fuses, and switches.  All of them worked the way they were supposed to.  I was starting to get concerned.  Not for Harris or the state of the machine, but that I would be so engrossed in watching him that I'd forget about lunch and have to finish the day on an empty stomach.

When did it give you problems? Harris looked up from behind the machine and asked Bremmer.

It stopped working on the spin cycle.

That could be the clutch, the brake, or the transmission.

Hey, Harris, Adkins said.  Why don't you just let Hendrickson call a repairman?

Because I don't feel like listening to them spend an hour arguing over he price when I could have it done in that time.  Besides, after last time he was here, Hendrickson would just as soon let everything fall apart.

Harris removed some belts, laid them aside, then plugged the machine in and turned it on.  Nothing happened.  He went back behind the machine, replaced the belts, and began disassembling the transmission.

The lunch whistle blew ten minutes later.  Everyone who was watching Harris jumped. A few people let out surprised gasps.  Harris, who'd been oblivious to everything except the metal and plastic in front of him, must have lost his concentration for just a second and let his hand slip.  I don't know what he was holding, but it flew back and struck him in the head.  He looked into space for a few second, like he was confused or trying to think, then