Free Ebook for the Spooky Season

Front cover of Don't Lose Your Head. A suit and tie without a head above it, and a background of black drips on a gray wall.

With Halloween around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to offer my ghost-story novella for free. The ebook of Don’t Lose Your Head won’t cost you a dime — or a trade of some candy that you’ve bought to hand out to trick-or-treaters. (Although I wouldn’t say no to a Kit Kat or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.)

The ebook is available at Amazon. It’ll be free through Tuesday, November 2.

Here’s a little about the book:

When you leave for a trip, who knows you’re gone from your house? Family and friends, sure. Neighbors, perhaps.

So does the chauffeur who drove you to the airport. Alan Burris takes advantage of working for a car service to know when clients will be away from their houses for several nights. Some houses are easier, since they don’t have a security system — and these houses are on his list for a night visit to steal valuables.

The Resnick house has been on Alan’s list for a while, and now it will be empty for a few nights, since Mr. and Mrs. Resnick are spending a long weekend in Chicago.

But is the house really empty? Alan’s about to find out what it’s like to not be alone in the house, his car, his apartment, and his head. And with another person hanging around, to what length will Alan go to get rid of them?


If you’d like to tip-toe into the metaphorical tulips of this story, an excerpt of the first chapter is here.

Excerpt: ‘Other Lives of the Boothbys’

Yesterday, I promised (warned?) that an excerpt would arrived today, from my novella Other Lives of the Boothbys.

And now here’s the section where Bradley Boothby calls the writer George Foulkes to chat about a character in one of George’s stories…


Excerpt

Dialing the phone number on the screen, Bradley hoped George Foulkes wouldn’t ignore the call. If George had caller ID (and didn’t most people?), he wouldn’t recognize this number and might assume it was a telemarketer. George could let the call go to voicemail.

“Hello?”

“Hi. Is this George Foulkes?”

“That’s me. Who’s this?”

Bradley didn’t have a flair for the dramatic. If he did, he could’ve deepened his voice, wishing to sound like a theatrical voice from beyond. Bradley said his own name in his normal voice.

Silence that could’ve lasted an hour but was merely a handful of seconds.

“Is this the editor again?” George asked. “No, I guess not. The number’s different. So’s the voice. Who is this, really?”

“I’m really Bradley Boothby. The editor called you because I went to his office this morning. I asked him to look up my name in his company’s books, and he discovered it in yours.”

“But my book isn’t published by his company,” George said. “I’m sending it around.”

“Okay, so that part’s wrong. But the book was at his company. And my name’s in your book.”

“Oh my God.” The writer’s caution dropped its luggage and jumped into excitement. “My own character is calling me. Do you have a quest for me? Or do you want me to chronicle more of your adventures?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Is this like in The Dark Tower?”

“Dark what?”

“A book series by Stephen King,” George said. “The characters visit King, and they convince him to continue writing the series. Well, they hypnotize him to keep going. He was afraid of being killed by the Crimson King. And with good reason. It’s a fantastic series. King’s a master of his craft, and I like stories about parallel realities.”

Bradley pinched the bridge of his nose, and the pressure helped to center his thoughts. “I’m wondering if I’m in a parallel reality.”

“Is it like ours? Or is it a post-apocalyptic wasteland?”

“It’s not a wasteland. Not yet.”

“Too bad,” George said. “It would’ve had more opportunities for characters to act like savages. But you calling me is huge. Never in a million years did I think one of my characters would call me.”

“I’m not your character,” Bradley said.

“Oh yeah? Do you own a storage facility?”

“No, and I didn’t find a time machine.”

“Then how do you know about the time machine?” George asked.

“Jack Schneider told me. We just had drinks, and he told me about your novel, how you got the idea for the name of the characters.”

“I know you’re not the people from the booth. They’re not my characters.”

“And I’m not, either!” Bradley’s volume was louder than he had meant.

Danielle looked worried at her husband, leaning against the kitchen counter, growing more agitated, his arm held across his chest propping up his other arm holding the phone at his ear. The past couple weeks had put a strain on Bradley, and today’s revelations made it worse. They should’ve improved the situation, by providing answers. However, not all answers gave relief, instead causing troubles of their own.

“This is disappointing,” George said. “Especially since you don’t have a time machine. That’d be more incredible than incredible.”

“Believe me, if I owned a time machine, I’d be rich,” Bradley said. “I’d go back in time and buy the stocks that would make me rich. And I’d live in a much bigger place.”

Bradley didn’t have to look around the kitchen to remember its dimensions and middle-of-the-line appliances. He and Danielle fantasized about owning a rowhouse, rather than renting this apartment. They were saving money for that dream.

“Okay, okay,” George said, enthusiasm drained from his voice. “So you’re not my character. It would be cool if you were, though.”

“Gosh, thanks for acknowledging me as a real person.”

“I deserve the sarcasm,” the writer said. “Why’d you ask the editor to look up your name?”

As Bradley gave the background of the persistent déjà vu outside of Randolph-Turley, it was easier to talk about. Growing accustomed to it with practice. George asked if the feeling was one that Bradley often had, and Bradley said he rarely felt it before the recent happening with the publishing company. Before, the feeling was minor, going to a place and having the sense he had been there but was unable remember the specific memory.

Bradley pictured George sitting cross-legged on a rug, peering through eyeglasses, a notepad resting on his lap, pen jotting down nuggets of information. The writer turned into therapist. Wanting to delve into the inner workings of this situation, discover what made it tick.

“We find ourselves in a fascinating place, don’t we?” George asked. “Here’s how I see it. You could hang up, and this whole thing is over. You found your answer about my character. You can chalk it up to random shit in a random world.”

“Sounds about right,” Bradley said.

“But this doesn’t have to end here. We can keep going.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning the universe aligned to put us together,” George said. “I don’t know why, but it did. We should get together in person.”

“You want to come to New York and meet up?”

“Or you could come here. I’ve got it.” Excitement returned to the writer’s voice. “How about we meet the people in the booth? My wife and I are regulars at the diner. We’ve seen those people there before. Wouldn’t that blow your mind? Boothby could meet the Boothbys.”

Bradley pondered such a meeting. “I think it would blow your mind more than it would blow mine. They’re just regular people to me.”

“You’re sort of connected to them. Think it over. It would be a shame to end things with this phone call.”

Bradley said he would consider the idea, then he hung up and told Danielle about George’s invitation. She didn’t share the writer’s thrill about meeting strangers who happened to be eating in the booth behind George Foulkes and his wife on a particular night. Kansas City, Missouri wasn’t a subway ride from Brooklyn.

***

Book Review: ‘Voice of a Story Teller’

Cover of book, with an image of the night sky. Many stars are shown, along with a shooting star.

Voice of a Story Teller by Sara Kjeldsen 

Two story tellers are in this book, as the overall story is told by Barak, who has survived a war. He is haunted by watching his friends die in that war.

In his PTSD, Barak isolates himself in the small village and doesn’t spend much time with the other villagers. He prefers fishing on the river alone and creating wooden carvings alone in his hut. Barak weaves a bitter story in his opinion of the villagers, as he judges them for moving on from the war and putting the memory behind them.

The object of Barak’s harshest judgement is Almaz, the story teller who has come to the village. Stories can have the ability to draw us into their worlds, and Barak dislikes Almaz for doing that to the villagers. Yet Almaz offers to help Barak try to find peace from his war memories.

Sara Kjeldsen has crafted a powerful voice in Barak, and that makes for an interesting story. Because Barak is not a one-speed character. Along with his haunted memories, he enjoys looking at beauty in the natural world around him. And he’s conflicted about what decisions to make.

“All of us are little more than stories ourselves,” Almaz says. And the kind of stories we tell ourselves is important, shaping how we see ourselves and the world. This book is a great example of that.

This novella is available on Amazon.

Also, you can check out more of Sara Kjeldsen’s writing on her blog.

Free Ebook: ‘Don’t Lose Your Head’

Cover of Don't Lose Your Head. The background is dark gray, with black drips. In the foreground is a photo showing a business suit and tie -- but there is no head above the suit.

A ghost story is my next ebook to be free — starting today and lasting through Tuesday (July 20). This novella, Don’t Lose Your Head, can be found on Amazon.

A little more about this spooky book…

When you leave for a trip, who knows you’re gone from your house? Family and friends, sure. Neighbors, perhaps.

So does the chauffeur who drove you to the airport. Alan Burris takes advantage of working for a car service to know when clients will be away from their houses for several nights. Some houses are easier, since they don’t have a security system — and these houses are on his list for a night visit to steal valuables.

The Resnick house has been on Alan’s list for a while, and now it will be empty for a few nights, since Mr. and Mrs. Resnick are spending a long weekend in Chicago.

But is the house really empty? Alan’s about to find out what it’s like to not be alone in the house, his  car, his apartment, and his head. And with another person hanging around, to what length will Alan go to get rid of them?

You can discover how this story starts by reading an excerpt of the first chapter here.

Book Review: ‘Calibration 74’

Cover of Calibration 74. A circle is within a rectangle, both painted in red

Calibration 74: An Experimental Novella by William F. Aicher

If a traditional book’s narrative could be akin to a painting of a street scene, then this book would be akin to an abstract painting.

Or perhaps it’s more of a collage, with items glued to a canvas. There’s a variety of items: library card, photo of a cat, pages from a diary, a screenshot from the “Lost” TV show, pages from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Let’s say the collage is in an art gallery. The card on the wall next to the collage states its title and the artist and the year of creation.

However, no explanation is given for the collage. So we, as the viewer of the collage, will look at the mixture of items and draw our own conclusions for the artwork’s meaning. Actually, the meaning that each of us sees in it.

That’s the same with Calibration 74. The narrator looks for clues around him, clues based in numbers. He believes in a door leading to a place that’s different than this world. Another part of the multiverse. This door is possibly underneath his house, so he pulls up carpeting and hardwood flooring, then breaks the concrete pad.

The search isn’t over there. Ah, we’ve only just begun. The narrator goes on a journey, one clue leading to the next, in his exploration for the door. And the narrator attaches a kind of logic to each clue. Some of those connections might not make sense to us readers, but William Aicher portions out the story so we see how the connections make sense to the narrator.

I found the book to be a wild journey. A maze built of the narrator’s interpretations of the world, mentions about the narrator’s past, and references to culture. If you’re looking for meaning, isn’t that maze what you have to navigate? We’re collages of those interpretations, memories, cultural influences.

If you’re open to taking a recess from stories with traditional narratives, I recommend this book. I really enjoyed the trip through it. The ambiguity sparked my thinking to craft my own meaning from it.

The book is for sale on Amazon.

The author’s website is here.

Free Ebook: ‘Minotaur at the Door’

Cover of The Minotaur at the Door. The background is medium blue, and before it is a silhouette of the minotaur.

Next in my staggered schedule of free ebooks during July involves myth and the fantastical, since it includes a minotaur in the modern day. You can snag an ebook of The Minotaur at the Door at Amazon.

This ebook will be free through Saturday (July 17).

Okay, so the book has a minotaur — no duh, the word’s in the title — but can you tell us more?

Sure!

Is that an actual minotaur knocking at the front door, or is it somebody pranking Pablo, Miles, and Harry?

The three men renting rooms in the house have their doubts about the reality of the creature, but only Pablo seeks to learn more. He wants to meet the minotaur. And find out why he is visiting their neighborhood.

Pablo’s journey alternates chapters with the events of Daedalus and his son Icarus, centuries before Pablo. These chapters breathe life and detail into the myth of Asterion, the first minotaur, and Daedalus and Icarus’s imprisonment in the labyrinth. How father and son deal with being stuck in the maze and how they craft a plan to escape.

To dip your toes in the story with an excerpt, click here.

Free Ebook: ‘Other Lives of the Boothbys’

Cover of Other Lives of the Boothbys. The background is light blue. The title is embedded in other lines of text that are softened by being gray, while the title is in black

Another of my ebooks is available for free: Other Lives of the Boothbys. The promotion starts today and will last through Wednesday (July 14). Download the ebook from here on Amazon.

What is this book about?

Bradley Boothby has no idea why he feels déjà vu when walking by the office building for Rayburn-Turley Publishing. 

Is he included in one of the publishing company’s books? If so, why? Did an author spy on Bradley to steal his life story, which isn’t all that dramatic? The thoughts are far-fetched, so he dismisses them.

But the strange sensation persists, and Bradley finally acts, needing to find if the déjà vu has a foundation. His search touches off consequences for an editor and writer, as they have an impact on each other’s lives. 

Still undecided whether to get a free ebook? Read an excerpt here.

2 Days of Free Ebooks

covers of five ebooks

I’m launching a new giveaway today, this time without a contest. Today and tomorrow, all five of my ebooks are FREE on Amazon!

Get one, get all! There are 3 novellas, 1 novelette, and 1 collection of short stories and illustrations. A description of each:

Jumble: Stories and Drawings

In this quirky collection, you’ll find 18 short stories and 68 drawings, which are independent of the stories, although a few drawings echo something in the stories, a fine example being an elephant.

Examples of the stories include a man finding joy in a pancake house, a girl interrogated because she picked up the king’s rolling crown, elderly Claude Monet visiting his long-time friend Renoir, a science fiction writer donning a cap of electrodes hooked up to a computer so his dreams could be transcribed, and a group of private detectives hired to research the possibility of reincarnation.

*****

The Minotaur at the Door

Is that an actual minotaur knocking at the front door, or is it somebody pranking Pablo, Miles, and Harry? The three men renting rooms in the house have their doubts about the reality of the creature, but only Pablo seeks to learn more. He wants to meet the minotaur. And find out why he is visiting their neighborhood. Pablo’s journey alternates chapters with the events of Daedalus and his son Icarus, centuries before Pablo. These chapters breathe life and detail into the myth of Asterion, the first minotaur, and Daedalus and Icarus’s imprisonment in the labyrinth. How father and son deal with being stuck in the maze and how they craft a plan to escape.

*****

Other Lives of the Boothbys

Bradley Boothby has no idea why he feels déjà vu when walking by the office building for Rayburn-Turley Publishing. Is he included in one of the publishing company’s books? If so, why? Did an author spy on Bradley to steal his life story, which isn’t all that dramatic? The thoughts are far-fetched, so he dismisses them. But the strange sensation persists, and Bradley finally acts, needing to find if the déjà vu has a foundation. His search touches off consequences for an editor and writer, as they have an impact on each other’s lives.

*****

Don’t Lose Your Head

When you leave for a trip, who knows you’re gone from your house? Family and friends, sure. Neighbors, perhaps. So does the chauffeur who drove you to the airport. Alan Burris takes advantage of working for a car service to know when clients will be away from their houses for several nights. Some houses are easier, since they don’t have a security system — and these houses are on his list for a night visit to steal valuables.

The Resnick house has been on Alan’s list for a while, and now it will be empty for a few nights, since Mr. and Mrs. Resnick are spending a long weekend in Chicago.

But is the house really empty? Alan’s about to find out what it’s like to not be alone in the house, his car, his apartment, and his head. And with another person hanging around, to what length will Alan go to get rid of them?

*****

The Red Tree

While rain falls for weeks, the Engler family invites friends over for an evening of dealing with cabin fever together. And when the spring sun arrives, the Englers celebrate by walking in a wooded park, where they encounter a red tree away from the trail. Guesses abound as to why the tree is red when none of the other trees are.

Life returns to normal for most of the Englers. The father, Calvin, decides the red tree was a sign for him to make changes in his life and property. Changes the family and neighbors don’t quite understand. But some family members can be eccentric, and others learn to roll with it.

A novelette about family, experiencing the mysterious, and letting your imagination loose.

Book Review: Daylight Chasers

Today’s review is of Daylight Chasers, by Rue Sparks.

Poems bookend the novella’s main text, and the poems refer to myth (Atlas, the beginning poem) and fairy tale (Red Riding Hood, the end poem). To me, these poems extent the novella’s message: developing strength after the loss of someone beloved.

Daylight Chasers LLC provides quite a creative service — I imagine most people would jump at the chance to partake in memorable adventures crammed into a day that’s extended by moving into time zones to keep up with the sun.

Isabella goes on such a day with her hosts Keenan and Billy. These adventures (one is superbly illustrated on the front cover) provide a sense of wonder for things in the world that rise far above the ordinary. When the adventures don’t go smoothly, it forms a current in the book of rolling with the changes that happen in life.

I liked how the characters navigated this nearly never-ending day. Isabella rolls with those changes. Keenan starts with wanting to record everything on his phone’s camera, to create a video to showcase what his business offers. But he shifts away from a corporate mindset as the day continues.

This is a lovely, hopeful book.

Minotaur at the Door

Minotaur at the Door cover

Today’s excerpt comes from The Minotaur at the Door, a novella about what could be a minotaur knocking on the door of the house where Pablo, Miles, and Harry are renting.

Pablo’s journey alternates chapters with the events of Daedalus and his son Icarus, centuries before Pablo. These chapters breathe life and detail into the myth of Asterion, the first minotaur, and Daedalus and Icarus’s imprisonment in the labyrinth. How father and son deal with being stuck in the maze and how they craft a plan to escape.

So here’s part of the first chapter. The book is available at Amazon as an ebook and paperback.

*****

The house’s three occupants were busy watching television shows in separate bedrooms, and none of the men was excited to answer the knocking at the front door.

Harry pressed the pause button on the remote control, since his show was in the slow scene of a tea ceremony. Sometimes the friends of one occupant came over to hang out, but Harry wasn’t expecting anyone tonight. He opened his bedroom door, called out down the hallway, “You guys expecting friends?”

“No,” Miles said from behind his closed door, amid the dramatic music from his TV.

“No,” Pablo said from behind his closed door, amid the sounds of dialogue from his TV. “Can you see who it is?”

“Fine,” Harry groaned. “But it’s someone else’s turn next time.”

Going downstairs, Harry thought about how the yakuza thumped on the doors of people who owed them money or favors. Harry was quite taken with the action-packed television show, now in its third season. Most of the people visited by the yakuza paid the owed money, or they stutteringly promised to return a favor required by the Japanese crime syndicate guys.

When a debtor tried to escape, the plan didn’t end well for them. A chase ensued through night-time Tokyo (it was always night-time in the chase scenes), then the yakuza used harsh methods to persuade the debtors to pay up. Only one character had been able to elude the yakuza: Kaito Takagi, who could disappear, ghost-like, into the crowded city. Harry would’ve liked to have that ability.

Perhaps because of the show’s suspense, Harry peeped through the peephole instead of opening the door. What he saw standing on the front step shocked him and made him glad for checking. The thing standing on the front step couldn’t be there. A second look into the peephole confirmed the truth.

Harry bounded back up the stairs and shouted, “There’s a minotaur at the door!”

Dramatic music and dialogue stopped as pause buttons were pushed. Two bedroom doors swung open, and the roommates stepped into the hall that lacked decoration on the walls—merely a corridor to more important places.

“Is this some kind of joke?” Pablo said.

“If it’s a joke, it’s a weird one,” Miles said.

“It’s not a joke. It’s serious.” Harry’s eyes and voice communicated sincerity.

“But the minotaur wasn’t real,” Pablo said. “It’s just a myth.”

“Myth or not, there’s a minotaur out there,” Harry said.

As a fresh round of knocking came from the front door, the three men remained in the hallway.

“Is it Halloween?” Miles asked.

“That’s not till next month,” Pablo said.

“Oh, right,” Miles said. “The days tend to run together for me. Maybe this is somebody’s idea of a prank. I need to see for myself.”

He led the trio down the steps, to the foyer, and he leaned forward to peer through the peephole. The other two stood a few steps to the side, in the living room, and watched.

Astonishment was on Miles’s face as he went to join his comrades. “Holy crap, you weren’t kidding about that thing!”

“But is it really real?” Pablo said. “Or is it just a costume, and you were right about somebody pranking us?”

“Looked kinda real to me,” Miles replied.

“I’ll see about this.”

Pablo became the third to check through the door’s tiny, circular window—and he was the third to be baffled by the sight. Even while the creature wore a hoodie, it had a bull’s face. The image defied the reality of this suburb of Columbus. A creature couldn’t have the head of a bull and the body of a person. Pablo retreated to the group.

“What’re we gonna do?” asked Harry.

“How should I know?” Miles asked back. “I’ve never met a minotaur before.”

“Let’s pretend we’re not here,” said Harry. “It’ll think nobody’s home and it’ll go away.”

“But the lights are on.” Pablo pointed to the lamp next to the couch.

“And the TVs are on.” Miles looked at the ceiling, as if his eyes had X-ray power to see into the bedrooms and the television sets, each with a stilled image. He said, “The beast could’ve seen the flickering lights of our TVs through the upstairs windows when it was walking toward our house.”

“Yeah, it could’ve,” Harry said. “You guys think it can hear us talking?” He didn’t bother to lower his voice.

Presumably in answer, a grunt came from the other side of the door. Followed by louder, insistent knocking. The house seemed to shake, although that might’ve been in the three occupants’ imagination. They gaped at each other, a triangle of worry.

“Let’s go to the kitchen!” Miles stage-whispered.

Their rushed voices turned into rushed legs; they skittered through the living room and dining room, into the kitchen. It was the farthest the occupants could’ve stood from the front door without opening the back door and transforming into non-occupants.

“What if the beast is hungry?” Harry said. “What if it’s banging on our door because its belly is rumbling, and once we open the door—if we open the door, that is—it will eat us up? That’ll be all she wrote. No more us. Gone in a frantic crunch of flesh and bone, because we won’t be able to get away.”

Pablo had listened thoughtfully to his roommate and tried to keep as level a head as possible. “I don’t know what minotaurs eat. It would be easier if a centaur was outside. That way, there’d be a man on the top half, so it’d be obvious what they eat. They like to eat what all other men eat.”

“But don’t you think centaurs might have horse-eating tendencies?” Miles asked. “At least some of the time?”

Lifting an instructive forefinger, Pablo said, “Maybe for Sunday brunch, they add a bit of hay.”

“Brunch is such a great idea,” Miles said. “Wonderful how it combines breakfast and lunch. And you could be right about centaurs. Maybe they have some hay, and an apple for dessert.”

Pablo’s finger remained raised. “Or a tasty carrot.”

“Would you two stop?” Harry demanded. “That kind of talk isn’t helping our predicament. Not one bit! A centaur isn’t out there. What do we know about minotaurs?”

“I only know they live in Spain,” Pablo said.

“Those are regular bulls,” Miles said. “In Spain, they fight bulls, and they do that running-with-the-bulls thing. Which is pretty nutty, if you ask me.”

None of the men had a desire to run with the bulls in Pamplona, although the subject had come up when, at various times, they had discussed life bucket lists with other friends, and a handful of those other friends had expressed interest in bull running. Seeing the Grand Canyon and the Great Wall of China were on the three men’s lists, which had a much lower risk of horns piercing their back sides.

“Isn’t the minotaur the god of war?” Harry asked.

“That’s Mars,” Miles said.

“That’s a planet,” Pablo said. “The red, angry one.”

“It was named after the Greek god of war,” Miles said.

“Mars is the Roman equivalent,” Pablo said. “Ares is the Greek god of war. They’re different, but somehow they’re the same.”

Harry threw up his hands. “It’s all so confusing!”

Nothing was confusing about the new bout of hammering on the door. The glasses in the cupboard jittered and clinked together. The occupants also jittered as they gazed, wide-eyed, toward the front of the house.

“We have to learn more about this creature,” Miles said. “Do we appeal to his bullish side or his mannish side? Quick! Get Bulfinch’s Mythology from the bookshelf!”

“What?” Pablo snapped. “You don’t know the Roman god of war, but you remember that Bulfinch wrote a book about myths?”

“If you think about it, it makes sense,” Miles said. “Gray had anatomy, Jane had fighting ships and assorted weaponry, and Bulfinch had mythology.”

“Keenly said,” replied Harry. “Was Bulfinch a minotaur?”

“Of course not,” snorted Miles. “Bulfinch is spelled with only one ‘l.’”

Harry looked a little wounded and sounded a little defensive. “It sounds like an odd combination of a bull and bird. Specifically, a finch. They’re yellow, right?”

“I think they can be,” Miles said. “But I don’t think all finches are yellow. It’s not a prerequisite.”

“That’s got nothing to do with our situation,” said Pablo. “I agree that we need to learn more about the creature. Go get the book, since you know so much about it.”

Miles scratched his stubbled chin. “I only know it’s under ‘b’ on the shelf. Since fiction and non-fiction are mixed together, and they’re alphabetical by title.”

“But if the categories were separated, the book would be in the fiction section,” Harry said. “Myths are just made-up stories.”

“That beast isn’t a made-up story!” Miles exclaimed.

Pablo groaned in exasperation. “Are we sure it’s a minotaur? It’s awfully dark out there.” True, it was night-time. He turned to Harry and said, “Maybe it’s your Uncle Frank, thinking it’s Thanksgiving. Frank’s a big guy.”

Harry frowned at his roommate. “We already proved that it’s not Halloween, so it can’t be Thanksgiving. Even if it was, our family always goes to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving. Uncle Frank knows that fully well.”

“But he makes mistakes,” Miles said.

“Everyone does,” Harry said.

“We’re getting nowhere!” Pablo cried. “I’ll get the book.”

As he hurried back to the living room, more house-trembling knocks came, like from the epicenter of an earthquake. The two occupants in the kitchen were silent until their friend returned with Bulfinch’s Mythology.

Pablo searched the book’s index, thumbed through the pages until finding the appropriate page. He said, “Says here the minotaur was in a maze in Crete. Everybody knows that. But here’s something I forgot. And it’s bad news. Very bad news. He ate people. Seven men and seven women were sacrificed to him every nine years.”

The other two men made grossed-out faces.

Miles said, “So he has a taste for human flesh. Great, just fucking great.”

“But there’s also good news,” Pablo said. “Theseus killed the minotaur.”

“Did he write the thesaurus?” Harry asked.

This time, Pablo snorted. “Who cares? He killed the monster!”

“But the monster on our front step is very much alive!” Miles said.

“Maybe he’s a relative of the one in the maze,” Harry said. “Like Uncle Frank is my relative.”

Pablo thumped the book shut, like jaws clamping down, but the book’s jaws snatched only air. “Enough with this bullshit. I’m going to see what he wants.”

“Don’t you dare open the door,” Miles said. “It’s our only protection against the beast!”

“I’ll talk to him through the door,” Pablo said. “And don’t forget, the walls are also protection.”

“Thank goodness we have brick walls,” Miles said. “They’re not made of straw, like in the story about the big, bad wolf.”

Pablo hefted a sigh and looked tired from the weight. “But it’s not a wolf, so you don’t have to worry about it blowing the house down.”

Harry perked up, excited to make an insightful remark. “If a centaur was out there, maybe it would eat our house. If our house was made of straw.”

Pablo stomped off, followed on his heels by his two roommates, and Pablo stopped just behind the front door. The stranger’s loud huffing could be heard, reminiscent of a wolf.

###