The Bowling Ball People

bowlingballpeople

I was always the first one at the alley on Bowling Night. We all agreed to meet there at 20:00, but I made sure to arrive there by 19:30 at the latest, so I could have some time to myself before the game starts, and to buy a round at the bar, ready for the guys when they got there.

Through the glass on the doors I saw all manner of activity: children running to and fro and playing on the arcade games, people chatting over drinks, and of course, bowlers bowling, knocking over pins. Yet when I opened the door and stepped inside, the bowling alley was completely empty.

Nobody sat at the tables.

Nobody played the arcade games.

Nobody stood at the lanes.

I rubbed my eyes, bit my lips, pinched my arm, and yet the place remained empty.

In fact, this was the cleanest I had ever seen the place; the carpets were vacuumed thoroughly, and there wasn’t a single discarded wrapper or cup to be found. My mind forced itself to explain what had happened here; I even said to myself, ‘Guess I really can’t hold my drink.’ As I looked around for the janitor who would show me the way out, my eye caught a sign on one of the arcade games:

‘This machine is for display purposes  only’.

At this I turned around towards the door, only to find…a different door. Not a double-door with little windows, but a single wooden door, looking more like it belonged in a mansion then in a bowling alley. There I stood, inwardly debating with myself whether or not to open it, when it opened by itself.

In stepped a woman wearing a white shirt with an id card. She had a bowling ball for a head.

In stepped a man wearing a tweed jacket and a mortar board. He had a bowling ball for a head.

In stepped several children in uniform, all of them with bowling balls for heads.

Big round heads with three holes – two eyes and a mouth. All of them green, but made of flesh instead of resin.

‘Oh, what luck,’ said the woman, clasping her hands, ‘we have a spokesperson! And I thought a portal would never appear in this room…’

I wanted to ask her about the portal, ask her how to get back home, yet all I could do was stand there and wheeze.

‘He doesn’t seem to want to talk,’ snorted the man, the teacher.

‘Well,’ said the woman, ‘this is a recreation of what our species inspired when we visited Earth. We explained to the humans our culture, our inventions, our discoveries and yet the only thing they paid attention to was our heads.’

‘And class,’ said the teacher to the children, ‘here we have an example of a human; as distasteful as I thought they would be.’ At that point I had a good mind to slap the teacher or punch him in his tiny face, yet I remained frozen.

‘Can you speak?’ asked the guide, ‘Maybe you’d like to tell us about this game our visits inspired?’

‘I…’ It hurt to speak, yet I forced the words out in vain hopes that they’d show me how to get back home. ‘You…have these balls that…’ I almost said ‘look like your heads’ but chose not to; I’m not sure if I did so to avoid offending them or if because they already knew that. ‘…are made of resin and you pick them up and throw them at pins.’

‘You mean the pointy things?’ asked a child.

‘No, pins are what you call these…well, they’re things you have to knock over. If you get them all, you get a strike…’

Another child spoke up. ‘Isn’t that when people march with signs and stuff?’

‘Well, but this is different…this is…’

The teacher sighed. ‘We had so much to tell the humans, and what do the humans tell us?’

‘Don’t worry,’ sighed the guide, ‘visits to other worlds are temporary ones. You’ll reappear in your own world soon enough.’ Then her, the teacher and his students all just stared at me, arms folded, waiting for me to disappear. I don’t know how long I spent staring at them before I rematerialized back in my own world, but I know it was too long.

When I came back to the bowling alley, no-one apparently noticing I had appeared out of thin air, I had to leave as soon as possible. In fact, I never again joined my friends for a bowling night; every bowling ball I look at, every disembodied head, seems to have a judgemental stare.

The Lemon Possum vs. Karl the Kangaroo Round 2

This story follows on from Karl the Kangaroo, The Lemon Possum vs Karl the Kangaroo, The Kangaroo and the Comedian and Karl’s Daughter so it is suggested you read those four stories before this one. In fact, this story takes place directly after Karl’s Daughter. The Lemon Possum also appears in The Lemon Possum, The Lemon Possum 2 and The Lemon Possum’s Evil Easter.


Karl had trashed Sadie’s room. He tore down every poster, threw down the ceramic skulls and the monster figurines, ripped out pages from her books. For the grand finale, he lifted her guitar over his head and thrust it to the floor. He was sure he had seen one of Sadie’s musicians do that. A human musician.

He had just done something Sadie didn’t want him to do. Sadie wanted him to be honest, to admit what a nasty little creature he was. So he went and invited an employee to his home so he could pretend to be a welcoming host, he could pretend to be a loving father, he could pretend to be…

Well, he couldn’t pretend to be human. He pretty much was one.

More images from his past manifested into his mind. Sadie had tried to shave her fur to be more like her classmates, and Karl told her she should be proud of who she was. Later, Sadie wondered if she could have surgery. Surgery to remove her tail, make her ears rounder, make her nose pointier.

At that moment, Karl considered such a surgery for himself.

Karl looked around at the bedroom he had ruined. This is what Sadie would have wanted, he said to himself. She threw away her clothes so she could be a regular kangaroo. No talking, no computers, just hopping around….

Where was she? Did she get back to Australia? Karl forced pictures into his head, fantasies to combat his painful memories. Perhaps Sadie stowed away on an airplane, he thought, and she went back home. She was in the outback, hopping around with Karl’s grandson or granddaughter in her pouch.

No, thought Karl, if she had children, they wouldn’t be my grandchildren.

I’m not her father.

With that little wannabe-author out of the house, Karl thought he’d be further honest with himself. He’d be the lonely, miserable rich man everyone saw him as, because that’s who he was. Adopting Sadie, he thought, was probably an attempt to get away from that stereotype.

She was just a tool.

He was a wretched old miser and that’s what he was going to be for the rest of his life. Sadie didn’t matter anymore; he was going to care about no-one but himself because that was the way, it seemed, the world was supposed to be. No-one was going to come to show him the joy he was missing out on, no-one was coming to save his soul. The copywriter only wanted a bigger paycheck, as did the other workers.

They were humans, after all.

Despite thinking himself more man than kangaroo, Karl had a meal of a pile of grass before retiring to bed, staring at the ceiling before falling into a dreamless sleep. When he awoke, his mind randomly played back his days at the theatre, when he first learned to speak. He remembered every joke he made in every pantomime, including one parents found iffy: he held up a bottle of bleach and said, ‘If you drink this, you’ll die, but you’ll have a nice finish.’

The theatre. The beginning of the end.

A familiar figure appeared – yes, popped into existence – before Karl. She sat at the foot of his bed, leering at him like a goblin. The Lemon Possum, that overgrown magical rat who wanted him to sell games that promoted unhealthy eating. Karl could only laugh at her reappearance.

‘You’re not real,’ Karl said.

‘What?’

‘You’re not here,’ said Karl as he got up out of bed, ‘I’m just going to close my eyes, re-open them, and then you’ll be gone.’ He did just that, but not only was the Lemon Possum still there, she was waving a poster in front of Karl. A poster of a younger Karl, the Joyful Little Joey.

‘This is how you were supposed to be,’ the possum continued, ‘you made people happy by dancing.’

‘And look where that got me.’

‘Why don’t you go back to dancing?’ The possum smirked at Karl. ‘You could bring people much more pleasure and joy than you could with your mobile games and your mummy issues.’

‘I don’t bring anyone pleasure or joy. That’s just the way I am.’

The possum pointed to the poster. ‘Are you sure this is not the way you’re supposed to be? Everyone loved you when you were a happy, dancing little kangaroo, and now you want to be a grump.’

‘I’m supposed to be a “grump”.’

The possum let loose a vicious laugh that stung Karl’s ears. ‘Look at you, the mighty Karl the Kangaroo, who beat up little old me, now sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. You don’t scare me.  You’re pathetic. You wanted to entertain children, to bring them joy but all you do is mope. And all because of your mummy. Because of little Sadie…’

Karl looked the possum directly in the eye. ‘Don’t you dare mention Sadie to me,’ he spat.

‘But Sadie was a mistake.’

Karl gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes. ‘What have you done to her?’

‘I’ve done nothing to her. After she left you, she decided to become a normal kangaroo. Now she’s at your local zoo.’ The possum smiled wider, revealing her fangs. ‘That’s how much she hates you. She’d rather regress than live with you. I haven’t done anything to her, but maybe you could. If she’s making you that miserable, why don’t you…’

Karl struck the possum across the face, only for the possum to laugh again. ‘Go ahead and pummel me, it won’t change anything. She’ll still hate you, your workers will still hate you, you’ll still hate you. That Joyful Little Joey will still be a waste of space.’

‘I’m not making your little game,’ snarled Karl, ‘so if this is…’

‘No, I just like seeing people who defeated me miserable. Now, if you excuse me, I have sweets to share.’ Then she vanished.

The first thing Karl did after the possum disappeared was go to his computer and look up the Larford Zoo. Sure enough, there on the newsletter, was Sadie, older and unclothed, but unmistakably her. The newsletter was congratulating her on giving birth. A son. Her son, but not Karl’s grandson.

The Lemon Possum or whatever she was spoke the truth about Sadie.

She had left the poster behind. Karl picked it up, his hands trembling.

The little joey, on stage with the stick and the straw hat and the big smile.

That was Karl. That was who he was supposed to be.

Karl wasn’t the creature he was meant to be. He hadn’t been for years, and he could never be again.

A voice within told him to go visit Sadie. He would go to the zoo, see her and her child and apologise. Sadie would forgive him, they’d let him into her enclosure and they’d hug. He’d hug her, and then the little joey gets a hug from both mother and grandfather.

No. That wouldn’t happen. Sadie wouldn’t forgive him. She went to the zoo so she wouldn’t be like him.

He was still pretending.

He pretended to be a good father. He pretended to be a miserable miser pretending to be a good father.

He pretended to be a miserable miser enough that he became one.

He was a joke. Laughed at and mocked by comedians and a stupid little magic possum.

Karl stumbled around his home, various images spinning through his mind. His past, the theatre, the hours he spent learning programming. Sadie, her new home, her possible reactions to him returning to her. His life, his fragile, fraudulent life.

Into the kitchen stumbled Karl. From his cupboard he pulled out a bottle of bleach.

‘If you drink this, you’ll die, but you’ll have a nice finish.’

That’s what they wanted, wasn’t it? The workers wanted their mean old boss gone, Sadie wanted to be rid of her father forever, even mother…

He threw the bleach to the ground. No. That’s what the Lemon Possum wanted him to do.

He was going to see Sadie.

After shaking his head as if that would knock the unpleasant fantasies out, Karl got dressed, putting on his head a porkpie hat that hid his ears. It made him look like an anachronism, but it did mean that Sadie would be less likely to recognise him.

Sure enough, when he walked over to the zoo, barely anyone seemed to recognise him. Though he thought he did hear the word “Karl” uttered near him a couple of times, he thought it was more likely someone else with the same name being talked about, or a mishearing. He blended in with the crowd as he entered the zoo.

Entering the zoo was a lot like entering the theatre; the air was filled with the cacklings of children and the stench of popcorn. Pantomimes had overpriced fairy wands; zoos had overpriced sticks with chomping animal heads.

Karl took a look at the other animals – the giraffes, the elephants, even the bats – and briefly wondered if, given the chance, they would live in a house or program a game or speak. None of these were human, or pretending to be, they were simple animals and seemingly content to be so. An uncomplicated life with nothing to worry about.

No wonder Sadie went here.

When Karl saw the signpost pointing towards the kangaroo exhibit, he took a deep breath, lowered his hat and walked slowly in that direction. He prepared himself for whatever reaction Sadie might have, he prepared himself for her spitting in his face, grabbing him by the collar, or slandering him right in front of the crowd.

She danced. A huge crowd had gathered around to see her put on a little dance. Her and her joey. She leapt about with her child in her pouch, before lifting the child and twirling him around. Then she held her child in the air and stood as the crowd applauded.

She was happy. She was comfortable. She was just like the little joey on the poster.

When Karl got back home, he tore the poster to pieces and threw them in the bin. He no longer had an urge to think about the past, but he had a good feeling about the future.

 

The Ghoul in the Arcade

ghoularcade

There’s a ghoul in the arcade, beware,
There’s a ghoul in the arcade,
He’s got pale skin and yellow eyes,
And he wears a big bow tie.

There’s a ghoul in the arcade, beware,
There’s a ghoul in the arcade,
He terrorises everyone,
He’ll make sure to spoil your fun.

There’s a ghoul in the arcade, beware,
There’s a ghoul in the arcade,
His magic will ruin your day,
He makes the mechanical horse gallop away.

There’s a ghoul in the arcade, beware,
There’s a ghoul in the arcade,
Play the games, if you dare,
If you win, you’ll get a scare.

There’s a ghoul in the arcade, beware,
There’s a ghoul in the arcade,
The crane game you won’t enjoy,
It’ll grab you instead of a toy.

There’s a ghoul in the arcade, beware,
There’s a ghoul in the arcade,
And the trick he finds most funny,
Is allowing machines to eat your money.

The Caterpillar Roller Coaster

caterpillarcoaster

I’m a caterpillar roller coaster,
There’s a big smile on my face,
The smile is an eternal one,
So I don’t look out of place,

In the middle of this amusement park,
Where the children ride,
In my hollowed-out body,
By synthetic butterflies,

I can never become a butterfly,
And fly off with the others,
I can never make a cocoon,
Like my natural brothers,

I can never soar into the sky,
And though it may seem vile,
I’ll remain on this track forever,
I’ll stay here with a smile.

Karl’s Daughter

This is the fourth appearance of Karl the Kangaroo. His first three are Karl the Kangaroo, The Lemon Possum vs. Karl the Kangaroo and The Kangaroo and the Comedian. It is recommended you read those three stories before this one.


sadie

So as you may remember, I said that the infamous Karl the Kangaroo had asked me to ghostwrite his life story. How could I refuse? A chance to get more money and a chance to write something not about the latest non-free updates for free games.

It did mean spending a lot of time in his office, and it was certainly as ice-cold as my co-workers said it was. I had to force myself not to shiver as he related to me his life, especially his childhood. Both of us even considered making the sole focus of the book his childhood; many would say it was a miracle he was still alive after being abandoned by his mother, and after the conditions of the circus he briefly spent time in.

We spoke of what he spoke of when I saw him in the theatre. His pantomimes, his fights, him slowly learning how to speak and walk and act like a human. I was probably the only person in the whole workplace who really saw him as a kangaroo. Everyone else seemed to forget that.

There was something else they forgot, Karl one day told me. Something they forgot and he wished he could forget. We had talked at length about Karl’s childhood, but there was something in his adulthood that filled him with the same fear he usually filled his workers with.

His daughter.

Sadie, her name was. A kangaroo just like him, that looked for all the world like a younger female version of him, but not actually his daughter.

Karl explained it had happened shortly after he started getting truly successful, when his games had made him millions. He briefly returned to his birthplace of Australia, and paid a visit to a kangaroo rescue centre. There he learned he was not one of a kind, and he met with a little kangaroo speaking basic English and wearing a dress.

Her mother had been killed by poachers, and she had been fending for herself until the rescue centre found her. She had heard about Karl and his success, and apparently bounced off the walls frantically when he arrived.

‘I saw a little of myself in her,’ Karl said to me, and explained the discussions and arrangements he made with the rescue centre to adopt Sadie. He told me about how he helped her learn English and develop her vocabulary, to be prepared before he enrolled her in Primary School. Though the workers at Kangaroo Games rarely really saw Karl as a kangaroo, Sadie was never allowed to forget that.

‘Almost every day she’d come home with a story to tell,’ Karl explained to me, ‘The other girls were pulling her ears, stomping on her tail…’ He clenched his teeth and balled his hands into fists before continuing. ‘One day I saw her trying to cut her fur off so she’d look more like the other girls. I tried to make her proud of who she was…which, I must admit, was rather hypocritical of me considering I’m more human than you.’ When he said that, he snickered, but it wasn’t an honest snicker.

He had showed Sadie around his offices several times, and let the little kangaroo shake hands with his workers. This was before I came to work for him, so I didn’t remember it, but those who had worked longer than me either just had it pop up in their brain when I mentioned it, or they had forgotten it altogether.

Well, actually, one person remembered seeing her. He remembered seeing her as a child, and spoke to her again when she was a teenager. All he said about it was that he wished that he hadn’t.

It was not just in Karl’s office where he told me about his life. He actually invited me over to his house; the fact it was a well-kept manse in the country almost shocked me with how many co-workers spreading rumours it was akin to the Bates Motel. What actually did shock me was that when we had tea, Karl prepared it himself.

‘Ah yes,’ Karl said as he placed down the tea tray, ‘Sadie and I did have tea parties from time to time. Is that not an amusing image? Me sitting down with dollies and having tea and biccies? I won’t fire you if you laugh, it’s perfectly fine.’ I smiled and faked a snigger – fearing I would be fired if I didn’t laugh this time. ‘She had a load of dolls, but she gave them away when she got tired of them. She found new hobbies as she got older. Kangaroos grow up faster than humans…’

Sadie had left Karl’s house at sixteen, or the kangaroo equivalent of such. That I could certainly believe when Karl showed me her bedroom, which he kept just as she left it. Posters of skulls and graveyards, Jack Skellington duvet cover, bookshelves of Poe and Gorey and a purple electric guitar proudly displayed.

I almost said this proved humans and kangaroos weren’t so different after all, but Karl sat on her bed and told me, ‘When Sadie got older, she kept on telling me she hated humans. She still spoke their language, she still wore their clothes, but she was never subtle about her contempt for them. She’d come down to breakfast yelling about the latest news story, what the politicians or the celebrities did, and then she’d say to me…’ He stared blankly at the walls for a minute or so before turning his attention towards the guitar. ‘She once had a band, you know. She said she had found people who hated humanity as much as she did, and this guitar was the source of many headaches for me.’

He tried to laugh, but it sounded more like a harsh cough. He walked over to the guitar and picked it up. It looked as if he were about to play it, but instead, he just looked at it. ‘They knew I was her “father”, you know. They thought if they were friends with her, they’d get a taste of what I had. They…’

He threw the guitar to the floor.

‘This was a bad idea,’ he said, ‘I’ll show you the way out.’

I almost asked for him to continue with his story, but he was my boss and I couldn’t refuse his orders. He may have been a kangaroo, but he was no different from a human.


‘This was a bad idea,’ Karl repeated to himself as he climbed up the stairs. It had been such a long time since he went into that room, and he actually went and showed it to his copywriter. After showing that copywriter out, he walked in there again.

Into the room. Into the room where he saw his daughter lying on the bed crying because her band, the humans she thought of friends, just wanted a little of Daddy’s money for themselves. Karl stood near Sadie, and placed a hand on her shoulder.

‘Why did you do that?’ snapped Sadie, turning towards her adoptive father.

‘Well, to comfort you.’

‘That’s what you’re telling yourself?’ she said, ‘Look at the great Karl the Kangaroo, look how he cares for his daughter!’

‘What are you talking…’

She leapt off her bed and stood up. ‘Why did you adopt me?’

‘What?’

‘I said, why did you adopt me?’

Karl stood in silence.

‘Oh, that’s what I thought. Come on, admit it. It was just because I was just like you. Because I could talk like those humans and walk like those humans just like you. You inspired me. You wanted to have me around just so I could remind you of your own little accomplishments, is that it?’

‘That’s…utterly ridiculous, and you…’

‘Or is it your mummy? Yeah, it sucked, but I know how you treat your employees. Harry’s mum was sick but he can’t have time off because your shitty mum! You saw me and you saw a way to get back at her, to show her up. In fact, that’s what all this is about, isn’t it? The great Karl, who can talk and dance and make games, he’s much better than his mother even though he’s a selfish piece of shit!’

‘Sadie…’

‘You’re not fooling anyone. None of your workers look at me and say “Oh, he has a daughter who takes care of, he can’t be that bad.” I could have been perfectly happy at the rescue centre, you know, they’d have known what to do with me, but you had to go and make me your accessory, parading me around your workplace.’

‘That was not why I brought you there at all!’

‘So why did you then?’ asked Sadie, arching an eyebrow.

‘I wanted you to be proud of…

‘It was so I could make you feel better. So you could delude yourself into thinking you were good. You kept me around because if I wasn’t here, you’d have to actually admit you’re a miserable selfish bastard. In fact, go ahead and be a dick. Shit on your employees all you want, I don’t care, just don’t keep me around while you do it.’

Karl saw the whole scene replay before him and begged his past self to say something different this time, do something different, but when Sadie announced her plans to leave Karl, the past Karl said, ‘Well, why don’t you just go then?’

She did.

She spat in Karl’s face and left, leaving all her posters and books and possessions behind.

Karl let her leave. When she slammed the front door, he didn’t cry out to her. When there was no sign of her for a week, he didn’t send out any search parties. When he found what were unmistakeably her discarded clothes, he simply threw them away.

She didn’t want him to find her. If he tried, it would simply be furthering the lie. It would be so the media would say ‘Look at that caring Karl, stopping at nothing to find his daughter.’

So he let her go. He let her be taken off to some zoo or a stinking, urine-soaked circus, or let her be served as a steak or just simply be lost out there with no-one to turn to…

It was a loathsome thing to do. But he was a loathsome kangaroo.

He was no different from a human after all.

The Tree

Another older poem of mine.


lucytree

Once on a hill, as tall as can be,
There stood a very troubled young tree,
A nice little birch whose name was Lucy.

Lucy, you see, had a lot on her mind,
She twitched, and found it so hard to unwind,
As she thought of the horrors that awaited her kind.

Ever since last week, she couldn’t relax,
After her husband recieved several whacks.
His murderer? The man with the axe.

She had been told it was an honour to die,
When a tree’s cut, she shouldn’t cry;
It’ll go and meet the tree god in the sky.

The humans would be able to use the trees’ wood,
They’ll become helpful things like they should,
So after death, they have a chance to do good.

But, how she loved her husband so!
No tables or chairs she would bestow,
If it meant her love would go.

He was her world, he was such fun,
They’d sleep together and watch the sun,
Their love for each other never came undone.

To take him from her was such a crime,
So Lucy thought now was the time,
To do something about this human grime.

Her body was hers, not for some guy,
To shove his ass in when she should die,
She let out a snort, looking up at the sky.

Just then, a new thought sprung up in her brain,
‘Before another tree gets murdered again,
Why can’t I have something to gain?

‘I have no tables, no cupboards, no bed,
Trees make them for humans, and they end up dead!’
A troubling thought to enter her head.

‘I know what’ll I do,’ Lucy said with a smile,
‘I’ll wait for that moment, and when it comes, I’ll
Perform something that will be really worthwhile.”

She waited, days, weeks, thinking just of the plan,
When one day, she happened to spy a fat man,
With stubble on his chin, and a lack of a tan.

This man hadn’t forgot to equip,
The infamous axe he held in his grip,
He held it so tightly, would not let it slip.

Lucy on the hill was this man’s sure prey,
Surely this was her inevitable day,
A prophecy that she could not betray.

She saw the man, who had no grace,
And the moment she did embrace,
As a cheerful smile spread across her face.

She’d defeat this fate, she wouldn’t be lax,
With her branch arms, she grabbed the axe,
It was she that performed the whacks.

The man was now dead; he had no prayer,
So Lucy grabbed him by the hair,
Oh, he’d make a lovely chair!

The stomach was the cushion, arms were arm-rests,
A ribcage to slouch on when one feels stressed,
Lucy gazed at it with pride, no longer depressed.

The Man With A Jack-in-the-Box For A Head

Yet another older poem of mine.


manwithajackintheboxforahead

There was a man,
Who wished he was dead,
Since he had a Jack-in-the-box,
For a head.

One day the man,
Whose head was a toy,
Went to the shops,
And met a small boy.

The kid said, ‘Oh wow,
That really rocks,
That man’s head,
Is a Jack-in-the-box!’

The boy then stamped,
On poor Jack’s feet.
With a kick in the shin,
Jack fell on the street.

‘No, little boy,
I beg you, stop!’
But the kid turned the crank,
And the weasel went pop.

What popped out,
From the strange man’s head,
Was a sight that filled,
The young boy with dread.

It was a giant clown,
Its face ugly as sin,
With burning red eyes,
And a wide bloodstained grin.

‘Kid,’ Jack said,
‘You better run away screamin’,
Because you’ve just released,
My personal demon!’

The evil clown laughed,
And held out a gun,
‘Come now kid,
Let us have some fun!’

The kid screamed really loud,
And then ran away,
Said the clown,
‘I’ll get him another day!’

Jack growled at the clown,
And then closed his lid,
Ashamed that he terrified,
That poor little kid,

Jack went back home,
And he cried and cried,
Because the evil clown,
It came from his mind.