The Story of Grunk Garfunkle: An Ogre’s Episode

“The Story of Grunk Garfunkle”

The evening sun was setting in the distance and behind it trailed the light of another golden day, but squatting high on a rusty mountain range in the Blarkard Desert was a village of sandstone huts where another fire was being lit to take its place. A great pyre of brush was coming to life with flame in celebration of The Great Ogre Holiday of “Stunk Krungle-gruntas.”

Translated to the Common Tongue this loosely means “Eating Chickens Alive Party”, which the Ogres found to be festive and amusing. It wasn’t every day that they chased live chickens through the streets and ate them in mass quantities, hundreds and hundreds, still ‘grunkle-grawlen’ and ‘krinkrin-frunken’ for mercy. Often it is pigs.

There is no direct translation for grunkle-grawlen and krinkrin-frunken in the Common Tongue, but I’ve found that it can be roughly translated to ‘fluster-flapping’ and ‘panicked cluck-begging’.

A great crowd of Red-skinned Mountain Ogres had gathered for the lighting of the bonfire, a bi-annual event that signaled the beginning of the festivities. Scores of chicken coops scattered across several miles of Skungk Village would be opened simultaneously, releasing the vast hoard of plump and defenseless little snacks into a living and bellowing Hell of blood-thirsty predators.

They coo-cooed and squabbled aimlessly at first – each about a mouthful for a grown Ogre with their jaw unhinged and stretched to its widest – but once the first few were torn limb from limb in a gooshing smushy-pop of crunchy bone and sinew the others would fly into hysterics. That is, if chickens could fly.

Even if they could, Ogre village was surrounded, all several miles rimmed with an iron fence twelve feet tall. As I said: Chicken Hell. Cages withing cages. It was a guaranteed blood-bath in the most literal depiction of the words ‘blood’ and ‘bath’.

Funny enough, in Ogrish (the Ogre’s spoken tongue) there was no such word for ‘bath’ in the hygienic sense, but more than eight words for ‘blood-bath’…

I sat at the top of the sandstone hut I called home contemplating the structural integrity of the hut under my 250lbs of muscle and pot-belly. That evening as the grand fire began to blaze there was much on my mind, though Ogrish then was the only language I could think or speak.

Grunk! Gk’ruk nur’grunk’n kruk gr’nuner krun!?” a voice called up to me. Grunk! Brother and friend, it said in Ogrish, why not do you join our festive slaughter?

Oh, if tears could spell thoughts! If eyes could spill truth instead of salted waters!

Ker’nunken’rgk frug’durk!Just go eat your chickens! I screamed back down. It was impossible to hide my distress. With a snort (the common departing gesture in Ogrish dialect) the brother red-skin pranced off. It is damning to the eyes to see an Ogre prance, really.

From behind my perch I heard thunderous footsteps coming up the crooked sandstone stairs. My mother, like any Ogre, could not step in any way but thunderously. Stepping was more like stomping, stomping was more like crushing the Earth beneath our feet.

For purposes of story-telling I will abandon the Ogrish speech in place of the Common Tongue. I find it… tedious, troublesome to write.

“Grunk, what is wrong?” my Mama Ogre said bellowing-ly. I still cringe to think that she must still speak with such booming ignorance, even when attempting to sound consoling.

“What is this, Mother? Why must we act like barbarians? Every two years we fill the streets with this spectacle of shame.” I knew it was a trivial start to a useless conversation. A dozen times I had tried to relate these feelings, but always the same responses.

“But Grunk, you will see how the chickens plead for their chicken-feathered lives and won’t you want to join the fun?”

“No! I do not want to see the chickens torn asunder again!” I cried, salty tears of Ogre-y sadness.

“Then we’ll prepare a special pig, just for-”

“NO! Not a pig, either! It’s not the meat, Mother, it’s the needless carnage! I will eat chicken, I will eat pig, but must we have a festival celebrating our own barbarism!? Can we not have a chicken prepared on a plate, one for each Ogre, instead of gorging, twenty for each, blood-bathing in their chicken life-flood?” Here I used ‘skurg’urg-krungles’, arguably the most poetic of the many words for ‘blood-bathing’ in Ogrish.

I needn’t turn my head to see the far off look of dismay in my Mother’s red-obsidian Ogre eyes. I had seen it dozens, scores, maybe hundreds of times throughout the years during similar conversations.

Since my rebellious teenage years I had questioned our Ogre-culture, woven colorful rocks and feathers into my hair instead of freshly torn animal limbs and dead birds. I had befriended our house-pigs and fattened them out of companionship and love. I had done this though I knew their fate was to be released into the neighboring streets and hunted for blood-sport with teeth and claws. As a child-Ogre I had hidden and cried whenever the hunting day came. My mother always asked as she splat-plopped the head of my piggy-friend on the table, “Where were you, Grunk? Where were you?

I turned to her, but I didn’t see her. I saw right past her, the stretches of red-iron desert in the distance as the sun set. I knew before she had arrived what I would do that night. Without a word I stood and walked past her, down the sandstone steps that shifted slightly under my feet, through the house I questioned the structural stability of (for good reason: many of the huts collapsed unexpectedly…), and made my way outside. Already I could hear the chickens squabbling, smelling the killer instinct growing to a frenzy in the streets and alleys.

“Gruuuuunk!” I yelled. I quickened my pace, put more distance between me and the impossible distance that had grown between me and that house.

“Gruuuuuuuunk!” I ran lumbering-ly, the only way Ogres really run. I bowled into a passerby Ogre-brother. He smacked his butt in the typical offensive Ogrish gesture, but I kept running, gaining speed, making for the nearest chicken-den.

“GRUUUUNK! GRUNK, GRUNK, GRUNK!” Ogre-tears ran down my face, Ogre-rage had me by the Ogre-balls, so to Ogre-speak. That’s how we spoke, how I spoke, back then. The chicken-den came into view, a hundred or more chickens grunkle-grawlen and krinkrin-frunken in fear.

GRUUUUUUUNK! GRUNK, GRUNK GRUUUUUUNK!!!” I shrieked and SMAAASSH! went the wooden fence that kept the chickens prisoner! SMAAASH! This time the chicken-house where the chickens lived, the door blew apart as I Ogre-plowed through it! SMAAASH! Right through the walls of the chicken-house – SMAAASH! – I was a crushing force of chicken-liberation! I was a chicken-freedom-fighter! A freedom-smasher! Chickens fluster-flapped and ba-cawked around me, explosions of white and brown feathers everywhere, I stepped on a few (that I regret, but Ogre’s are blinded when in the Ogre-rage) and the house of chicken-captivity blew apart in my rage!

GRUUUUUUNK!” I screamed, slobbering and crying with a trail of frenzied chickens all around me like the godly aura of a chicken, a, a chicken-GOD!

I WAS A CHICKEN-GOD! “GRUUUUNK!” I SCREAMED! I SMASHED THROUGH THE BACK OF THE CHICKEN COOP LIKE DIVINE CHICKEN THUNDER! DIVINE CHICKEN THUNDER!!!

But then… the iron gate was before me.

But then, nothing could stop me, the Ogre-rage blinded everything before me, all I could think was NO! NO, NO, NO! SMASH IT DOWN! And I did! I SMASHED my Ogre-fists into the thick iron bars, again, again, AGAIN! The iron squealed and bent under each Ogre-blow! The chickens, I could hear them cheering for me! Not really cheering, but I heard their frenzy as a roar in my temples, the Ogre-rage screaming CRUSH IT ALL! NO MORE! CRUSH ALL THAT BARS YOU!

I vaguely remember Ogre-arms of many Ogre-brothers and sisters trying to hold me back, but without the Ogre rage driving their actions as mine were driven they stood no chance against my flailing, crushing Ogre-fury. With this fury behind my blows, not the chicken-house, not the iron bars, not the entire village, nothing could stop me. The iron gate broke into pieces under my hellish rain of punches.

And I kept running, never looking back, straight into the desert, a hundred or more chickens coursing in a frenzy behind me like great, white and brown chicken-angel wings sprouting from my back.

I was free.

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Short story: A Brief Moment Of Trust Is All It Takes

Margery and Diggory, her aloof husband, walked into the Couples Counseling Group with matching unease. Also matching were the color of her dress and his tie; her purse and his belt and boots; and their wedding bands, untarnished, still shining bright.

But during the first few months of their marriage, their relationship had come to be slightly duller than before, a film of boredom and petty arguments covering an otherwise pristine courtship.

Diggory cared and wanted to maintain and strengthen their bond, but being aloof, rarely set plans into motion and allowed Margery the discretion on most decisions, big and small.

The Couples Counseling was recommended, and at Margery’s discretion, they went.

The room was in the back of an art gallery, so upon walking in they were instantly distracted by the decorated walls. The gallery had been running an expose of artworks based on The Letter “F”.

One painting showed “F”s of various colors and design melting across a family eating dinner around a diningroom table.

Another was simply a framed essay of one paragraph that had been written by the artists nephew. The grade was a beautifully imposed, calligraphic “F” inscribed in a fat, red marker just below the title. It could have been brushed on by a Confucian monk. The real artist, a 7th grade teacher, did not accept credit.

Margery and Diggory circled the room once, stopping at each piece before continuing to the back, where a circle of chairs, most taken by nervous couples, circled a circular coffee table, coffee, cups and creamer included.

Feeling dizzy, Margery and Diggory sat down. The chairs were tied together by the pair. The couples were introduced by the group leaders, a man and woman who were not a couple, but were the curators of the aforementioned exhibit.

“We will begin the session with something fun,” the female curator group leader began. “Has anyone ever done a trust fall?”

The group murmured replies. Margery and Diggory took their spots with the other couples, arranged into rows by the group leaders so that nobody would collide during the exercise.

The first fallers and the first catchers were decided: Geoff would catch his husband, Michael; Susan would catch her husband, Fred; Tristen would catch his wife, Ida; Nicole would catch Sasha; Aaron would catch Penelope; Monique would catch Brian. Diggory was to be caught by Margery.

The couples lined up for the game with silly smiles, feeling childish. The exercise was working, loosening the shoulders of each individual, strengthening the group during this most important first encounter.

“Sure you can catch me?” Diggory teased Margery.

“Sure can, Bony.”

Diggory was very angular, and taller than Margery, but Margery outweighed him. Not only that, but their habits differed in that Margery attended a biweekly yoga class and took regular trips to the gym, and Diggory did not. Diggory was, in fact, pretty lucky to be with a woman who was so active, him usually being so inert.

“Alright,” the male curator group leader said, “everyone ready?” The group murmured replies.

“Sure am,” Diggory chimed, winking at the instructors, then turning to wink at his wife standing behind him, giggling from the comically heightened tension in the room full of business-minded adults.

The group counted together, “ONE, TWO, THREE! GO!”

The front row of spouses tipped backwards on their heels. For a moment Diggory was suspended in a free fall that would end at best with a moderate concussion on the linoleum flooring, at worst with a fractured skull if not for Margery, his significant other, waiting there at his back to catch him.

Margery bent her knees, preparing to catch Diggory. She cut her giggling short, inhaled quick and sportily as she braced for the exhale of the catch, and at the last moment, just before Diggory landed safely in her arms, juked to the side.

Tall Diggory fell like a pine tree, but more accurately like a man expecting his own bed behind him. All that met him when he fell was linoleum, cold and unforgiving.

The landing blow knocked the air from his lungs with a sound that has no word, but onomatopoeically sounded something like: ‘Goooffuaaugck’. This was followed by his head smacking the floor with a solid thud. Everyone in the room jumped back at the sound, including Margery. Diggory’s gangly arms and legs settled around him at awkward angles.

The Couples Counseling Group all stared in horror for a brief moment at the unconscious man, perhaps dead. Then all eyes were on Margery, who started from the  sudden attention, blushed, shrugged mischievously and burst into mad and ridiculous laughter.

No explanation was ever given.

In the future, the curators decided, the Couples Counseling Group would never again begin with an exercise in Trust.

Mr. Dirty Cop, a short story (Caution – adult themed)

I just knocked this out in a jiffy, so don’t think too hard into it. It’s a strange idea and I’ve adopted a “go with it” attitude toward writing. Enjoy…

There are times you wish you were a eunuch. Not often, but sometimes. Me getting kicked in the balls seven times by this crooked cop is one of these times. Rare. But it happens to somebody with a special kind of luck.

Buddhists and Taoists believe in emptiness as a spiritual concept. I believe in it as well. I am painfully aware of the empty space around us. I feel like it’s going to suck us in. The dumpsters, the whole alley. It doesn’t.

Instead two bangers hold me still, one on each of my arms. I keep trying to raise my leg, but every time I do they take turns stomping on my one grounded foot. At first I hopped about like that while Mr. Shitty-badge laughed and I had my feet crushed in. I couldn’t keep it up. I couldn’t stand hardly anymore.

I slumped, held up by bangers, being laughed at by a sad cop and a tortured by bangers. I wasn’t a cop, or a banger. I wasn’t a family man, not a thief. I wasn’t dressed like I had cash, and I wasn’t strapped.

Emptiness… a nonexistence of the self. A void where one-ness is established. That’s what I was thinking when Mr. Shitty-badge kicked me in the gonads the first time. I don’t know if there is a better word than ‘gonads’, but that’s not the point really. He kicked me while standing to the side, not facing me, like a karate man. It wasn’t a very good kick, but it hit me above the knees and below the waist.

I pulled myself up with my arms, bending upward against the locking grip of the bangers on each side. I didn’t see colors or flashes, but closed my eyes and exhaled for a long time, straining to pull myself up, suspended in the fetal position.

Oof. That is the sound I made when the bangers dropped me. They picked me back up and I was limp. Kick number two came before I had reoriented myself and my legs were spread wide looking for balance. It landed like a football kicker punting an octopus.

Ooohoooof. I gasped just like that. Black eddied across my vision and I felt a wave of vertigo. I was hovering over the precipice of a cliff. In my mind I saw a rollercoaster and felt the rush of wind past the plummeting carts. A surge of hot air swept over me and I saw an oven being opened in front of me, nothing in it but a glowing, red-hot coil. None of those tings were real, but the sensations passed through me one by one, and somewhere in my head a rational part of my mind thought oh, like this… this feels like this…

But it wasn’t close. I vomited onto my shoes, which dangled below me with swollen feet inside them. This wasn’t like a view from a cliff, or a ride on a rollercoaster, or an oven warming up to bake. Sickness from bodily injury is hard to relate to any one thing. Pain translates into fatigue, headache, symptoms of the flu. The body reacts with it’s defenses in a panic, trying to find the perpetrator by sending out its army of cells or whatever.

Cells or whatever… is what I thought just as that evil, wannabe-movie criminal cop jerkface Mr. Shitty-badge kicked me again. I thought I heard him say something this time, maybe saw something, but it was blurry. Everything was blurry. That was number three. I don’t even know if I tried to protect myself. What was I thinking about? Cells? Why cells?

I could see if I opened my eyes, which were filled with tears and transmitting data to an overloaded, fuzzy brain. Mr. Crooked Cop was crouching… stretching… not stretching– another kick, like a missile driving home. My eyes were wide open, and there it was behind Mr. Evil greedy cop, a giant number. FOUR.

That was number four, I could hear him saying. I heard him shouting numbers, words, vaguely audible over the blood-rushing pumping of my heart in my head.

FOUR. FOUR. FOUR. I could see the number emblazoned in the night sky over us, street lamps lighting the blocky monument. I remembered I threw up on my shoes, gross, I’m gross… and felt my feet scrape the ground. I was standing again. My mind was reeling more after each blow, and here it was without much sense. I leaned against the banger on my right. He patted me on the back. I looked up at him confused and he smiled, one arm around me.

Five and six came in quick succession. WHOP – WHOP! Like a boxer throwing the bag a left, right combo with his thick padded gloves. A bag of cement hitting the ground. A heavy pillow that knocks people down in pillow fights, nearly knocks them right out cold. WHOP – WHOP!

I saw the numbers when the kicks landed, too. FIVE! SIX! And the lids every trash can seemed to shake and rattled, vibrating from the shock of the blow to my loins. That’s such a soft word, like rotten fruit, like spilling milk, like making a baby cry, or a clock being too loud for the room, or the room being too quiet for the clock… The whole alley filled with the lights that sprang in front of my eyes. Flashes, colors, lights and sounds like a carnival going off in front of my eyes making me go cross-eyed. Trails of red and blue fireworks, yellow and green smoke and orange burning cinders. But only at the edge of my vision.

The full embodiment of this carnival, which I knew for a mask, distracting me from the moment of distress, bloomed upon the arrival of the seventh kick. I had stumbled to a wall, assumed the position as they say, my palms flat against the brick. Right then I had a vision. I saw the golden number before the kick landed and knew my pain was soon to end. It made perfect sense. Seven times is the perfect number of times to kick any one man in the balls if he steals your wife.

SEVEN. Lit up in the sky like the grand opening of the new downtown theater. The kick landed and the lids to every trash can exploded into the sky, propelled by fireworks that elaborated the spectrum of visible color. Angels sang in my head, rich, heady choruses of long, overblown notes. Trumpets blared and banners unraveled, and SEVEN emblazoned in the sky.

That’s probably more beautiful than the other numbers… I thought stupidly as I slid down the wall. Of course it was more beautiful. It was the most beautiful goddamn thing I’d ever seen other than that cops wife in her morning robe, watching morning television with an omelette I’d just pan-fried. Who is the bad guy? Who strays most from the path here?

Well, with our cast here, and me sliding down the wall… I can’t tell you. You can make anyone the center of this story. I’m just the guy who got kicked in the balls seven times. Then again, to someone else I’m the guy that slept with their wife. To someone else that wife is a prized trophy. To herself, she’s an innocent caught up in passions that exceed her will. You can tell it from any angle. Maybe I’m just a sideshow to the real plot. It feels awfully conclusive, awfully final and constructed to me, right now. I think my part in all of this just ended. Mr. Cheese-eating-grin dirty cop pulls out a gun. I’m a wreck, huddled against the side of a building. He laughs and walks away. I live, and my part in this is ended.