Fiction Portfolio

This is a place for samples of Phil Keeling’s works of fiction. 

 

From Drunken Vampire Hunting For Beginners (Novel)

The graves and mausoleums that the young photographer had set his lights around were just on the eastern lip of Bonaventure Cemetery. From there was a border of dirt road that circumnavigated all 160 acres of it and danced just along the edge of the Savannah River. The tombstones and flickering lights of their makeshift studio did not sidle to the edge of the river in any meaningful way. But that distance couldn’t disguise the shapes that hanged from the massive branches of the live oaks that lined the water.

Most of the shapes were what one would expect: the twisted, gnarled insanity of the Spanish Moss that crept in clumps and curtains from trees, creating shade on even the sunniest of days. The sun was just coming up, and it seems to bring a breeze with it that rolled out over the river and shook the creeping vines. The breeze was not enough, however, to move the figure transplanted within them.

With the sun behind her, the body seemed as black as the night that was slowly being pushed away. At first, Tom took this to be a trick of the light: the sudden brightness of the sun creating a silhouette from which nothing was distinguishable. It was only when he noticed that the sun didn’t seem to affect anything else about the body that he realized that she was a permanent shade of charcoal black. Her dress was a delicate, pale blue, with intricate stitching and white lace edges. Despite the charred black skin of its wearer, the dress seemed almost untouched, as if the river breezes had kept the fabric clean and new. It wasn’t only her dress that gave him the general idea that she had once been a woman. Her body—what was left of it—was slight and feather-graceful. She hanged there like a morbid kite that refused to take to the skies. With the fresh, almost pastel shade of the green dress against the almost ink black flesh that wore it, it occurred to Tom that the corpse was entirely the polar opposite of the shuddering would-be model that now wept against his squad car.

The corpse’s face had no features—only mounds and holes. Her eyes were double pools of squid ink—staring forever into a skyline that could do nothing but stare back. Even the first hesitating rays of sunlight couldn’t fill them. They grasped at the light greedily, like two celestial black holes, threatening to drink up all the light in the world. In a horror movie, her mouth would have mirrored the sentiment: a mute scream of fury or frustration or loneliness—all in defiance of a world that she loathed or ached for. But the truth frightened Tom far more. Her lips were pursed delicately, like a serene Roman statue. There was no frown and no horrifying smile. Just calm acceptance of a fate that seemed inevitable, or even favorable to the sport of life. It was almost as if her mouth didn’t exist at all.

To say that the girl in the green dress looked dead was superfluous—idiotic, even. But it was the first thing that occurred to Tom. Not even that she had once been alive and then died. But that she had never been alive in the first place. The rope that she danged from the end of was rough and coarse—the sort of rope that would turn a shrimping boat captain’s hands into spun steel. But the weight her body placed on it was nothing. The black grey of her skin was scaled and dry—like the outside of a burnt marshmallow. As Tom got closer, he could just make out two long, narrow slashes that made their way up her inner wrists and arms like twin exclamation points. What was once moist flesh that had pulled away from the even drag of a razor bristled like a desert of scales. Where thick blood should have dripped, only the dimmest motes of silt fell, barely visible but for the sun’s rays shining through them.

She had done this to herself. And it meant absolutely nothing. It opened no doors. It didn’t even crack a window.

 

From The Seagull And The Cellphone (Short Story)

Troy Jackson did not know that the phrase “as the crow flies” applied just as easily to seagulls. Or if he was aware of this fact, he certainly wasn’t acting in that manner. Indeed, as his focus on the waterfowl (and his precious technology) grew ever-distant, an outside observer might believe that Troy had never been behind the wheel of an automobile before. His tires thudded against the raised pavement of the sidewalk once at Philadephia Street, twice just outside of Market Square, and finally heaved themselves up and over at Railton Avenue, bringing the Buick belching onto the front lawn of the Free Clinic of Saint Maximillian, where it uprooted a mailbox, shredded a bush of blue violets, and bumped unpleasantly into minor local celebrity Debbie Holliday.

Troy Jackson was unaware of Debbie Holliday’s following, but he was terrified of killing a celebrity, even if he didn’t actively know it. Of course, he was afraid of killing anyone. But a generation’s worth of cartoons and People Magazine had quietly insinuated itself into his brain, and if Troy had known that Debbie Holliday sat at the Cool Kid’s Table Of Life, plowing directly into her with his car would have filled him with a gut-wrenching fear and regret known only to those miserable few who have dented the fenders of their Buicks with the faces of the pretty and unnaturally-proportioned.   As it stood, however, the fear and mascara-flecked face of Debbie Holliday was not one that he recognized, and so his panic was the more garden-variety “ohshitohshitohshitohSHIT” kind felt by so many others before him.

“OhshitohshitohshitohSHIT,” Troy shouted, dropping to his knees to check Debbie Holliday’s pulse.

When Debbie Holliday’s eyes opened, the hazy Allegheny sun was shining on her face. Absentmindedly she thanked the Lord that this neighborhood had a fondness for thick, drop-stopping Bermuda grass, and slowly opened her eyes. The dozen faces that peered down at her all wore expressions fear and worry: a solar eclipse of attention centered directly on Debbie Holliday. The attention made her quietly giddy, and she thanked the Lord a second time. Her hip ached vaguely, but that didn’t concern her so much. What concerned her was making sure that her physical and emotional rise was done with as much dignity as possible.

When the seagull landed in Debbie Holliday’s large bouffant, John Adkins screamed. Of course, he had seen seagulls before. But in this moment of startled apprehension, the waterfowl resembled nothing less than a grey-feathered demon: the ash hand of Satan himself, and a portent of ill tidings to come. So John Adkins brought his placard down on the tiny threat, and with a pronounced crack the yardstick struck Debbie Holliday right between the eyes. However, a yard stick is not a Buick. And for a long, solid moment, Debbie stared into John’s soul, and found what she saw there to be severely, profoundly lacking.

In one fluid motion, Debbie Holliday stood to her full height. And with a cry of “Judas!” swung an uppercut that caught John Adkins two inches to the left of his chin. His head pitched backwards, and suddenly it was his turn to thank the Lord for the cushion of Bermuda grass.

 

The President Unclogs His Toilet (Short Short)

The whole thing was rotten.  A wet heap that piled in and on itself, leaving white flecks of paper hanging in the water like a snow globe.  

He sighed.

“It’s all that extra ply,” he said.  He tried to sound confident.

The man standing behind him tilted his head almost imperceptibly.  He was wearing a black suit and stood very still.

“Ply, Mr. President?”

“Yeah.  The plies.  Folks get too fancy—add in a bunch of extra plies when the most you need is one or two…”

He trailed off, focusing into the toilet bowl again.  Water dribbled down its sides and lapped through his cotton socks.  He was in his bathrobe with the Presidential seal.  He was carrying a plumber’s helper.  

“That’s your problem right there,” he said, hefting the wooden handle of the plunger and splattering himself in the process.

“Dammit…” he muttered.  He hadn’t expected that.  He gripped the plunger with both hands and tested the weight.  It felt good.  The handle was rough, but not uncomfortable—like it could give him callouses if he used it enough.  He liked that.

“Mr. President, this really isn’t necessary.  We have people who can do this for you.”

The President ignored the man in the black suit and pushed the rubber end of the plunger deep into the drooping bolus of tissue and water.  It seemed to be collapsing in on itself.  That was a good sign, wasn’t it?

He gave the handle a cursory shove, feeling a change in the pressure of the air trapped somewhere beneath the water’s surface.  He pushed again, this time with more gusto.  The bowl emitted a quick, wet fart in reply.  It was a friendly enough sound, but he could tell the pressure had shifted again.  

Why couldn’t he do this?

If those bozos on TV could see him now, they’d have a good laugh.  Especially that jackass with the late night show.  The one with the hair.  He couldn’t stop seeing the headline:

PRESIDENT CAN’T UNCLOG TOILET: OUT OF TOUCH WITH AMERICA?

Just last week, that sleazy talk show host had run a hand through his massive coif of hair and called him an idiot.  

Right there, to his face!

Well, not really his face: the television wasn’t the president’s face.

But it might as well be.

The President imagined that host, and how good it would feel to slosh some of this scummy water on his perfect, full-bodied locks.  The plunger was coming up and down in quicker and quicker successions now, making the idiotic stutter of a howler monkey with each completion.  The talk show host’s face was blurry and scrunched up as his hair began to sag and fall.  Copious product melted into toilet water and stung his smug, beady little eyes.  

And just as the President’s fantasy reached critical mass, he was jolted out of his reverie by a sudden whooshing belch that seemed to fill the small space of his bathroom.  It rang in his ears for a moment before he looked back down into the toilet bowl.  

The soaked tissue—the rotten mass—was gone.  The overfull toilet rumbled down to a manageable level, and the President whooped like a six year old.

“I did it!” he shouted at the man in the black suit.  He was actually raising his fists in triumph over his head.  

“I did it!”

The man in the black suit glanced at the bowl with tired eyes and then looked back to the President.

“You’re an inspiration, sir,” he said.