Wednesday, August 30, 2017

SUMMER OF '60



With summer drawing to a close, I'd like to thank all the readers who have enjoyed my newest novels, THE MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY and LAND OF A HUNDRED WONDERS.

And for those of you who are wondering what I'm working on now, here's a little bit of SUMMER OF '60.

                                             


            I will never forget the sound Frankie’s leg made when it snapped in two.
            She didn’t blame me at the time and, to the best of my knowledge, still doesn’t. But a part of me has never forgiven myself for instigating what happened that night in the woods. Then again . . . if Frankie hadn’t thrown herself down from the highest branch of the oak she and Viv were hiding in, she wouldn’t have received all the attention she did for saving my life and I wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale.
But not everybody considers the events that unfolded in Summit during that long ago summer with as much guilt, or gratitude, that I do. Whenever it comes up in conversation, someone not old enough to know any better is bound to pipe in, “No use bringing all that up again. What’s done is done.” But there will come a time when they too will understand that not all that is over is past. And when memories do resurrect, they don’t ask permission to do so.
All it takes is a gentle wind stirring the leafy boughs of an oak or a dog barking on a full moon night or the scent of sweat to bring back the press of cool steel on my skin and the sound of Frankie’s femur cracking in half. The stitches left an ugly, raised scar on my neck, and she walks with a limp when it rains, and poor Viv. Though not bodily injured the way Frankie and I were that night, her spirit was more than a little broken.
No. As much as we might wish the border between then and now was less like a cobweb
and more like a brick wall, as my lifelong friends and I sit on the front porch of our Honeywell Street house on another summer evening decades later . . . the past is present. We never forget the summer of ’60. The summer that evil paid a visit to our small town and took our live as we knew them as a souvenir.


                                                                    Chapter One



Oh, the horror of it all.
Wild-haired hypnotists mesmerizing us to do their bidding, werewolves sinking their yellow fangs into our sunburned necks, and “little green men” or the “Commies” dropping out of the sky to enslave us not only seemed possible back then, but just a matter of time. Every day felt like anything-can-happen day and our nights were filled with things that went boo.
Why my best friends and I loved nothing more than getting the hell scared of out of us every Saturday afternoon at the Rivoli Theatre in downtown Summit or in the evenings at the Starlight Drive-In on the edge of town still remains a mystery to me, but we spent most of our childhood covered in goose bumps and jumping out of our skins.
The giant radiated ants from Them! sounded an awful lot like cicadas, and the three of us never looked at a full moon the same way after we saw The Wolfman. And for a few months after we’d seen The Fly, we couldn’t spot one without saying, “Heeelp me . . . please, heeelp me.” But it was The Tingler that almost did us in. Unbeknownst to us, Mr. Willis, the owner of the Rivoli Theatre, had fastened a vibrating device called the Percepto! beneath the red velvet seats that was activated during certain scenes in the movie to make it feel like the parasite had wormed its way into our spines and we ran out of the theatre’s Emergency Exit screaming.
But to the best of my recollection, which, if I do so say myself, remains remarkably sharp
for a gal on the dusky side of her sixties, in reality, other than the soaping of Main Street shop
windows every Halloween Eve by boys being boys, a reclusive woman the kids in town believed to be tending a bubbling cauldron in her cellar, the occasional escaped patient found wandering around town or the woods abutting Broadhurst mental institution, and Granny Cleary, nothing too frightening or out of the ordinary occurred in Summit—a town judged so ho hum by a popular Wisconsin travel brochure that the Points of Interest section was left blank—before the record-breaking heat showed up that Memorial Day like a harbinger of the horrifying things to come.