AFTER EXPEDIATING THE gaggle of giggling girl’s departure, Miss Slam ushered JJ and Curt to the best operating computer, with the biggest work station. They weren’t the most comfortable chairs in the world, but then again—they were made of hardwood, after all. JJ took the hot seat, pulled the internet up and typed Patron Saint of Woodcutters/Lumberjacks into the search engine. As they waited the eternity it takes for pages to load on dial-up, JJ toyed with the idea of turning to his right and just asking Curt straight up what crawled up his ass and died, but considered discretion the better part of valor. He needed his best friend to watch his back in this crazy situation, after all. Miss Slam tore JJ away from his thoughts.
“So what does being down with the clown got to do with all of this, and why does it matter?” Miss Slam inquired, encroaching upon JJ’s left flank close enough to cause a flare-up of his raging hormones.
“I think it matters a great deal,” JJ answered earnestly, squirming in his seat slightly, in an attempt to shift the bulge painfully throbbing in his lap. “I’m not a hundred percent certain of every detail, however. I could front and spout lies, but I won’t insult you like that. I don’t have intimate knowledge of the goings-on within the Lotus Pod. I am hoping that you being down and open-minded will help you to believe, and truly fathom the gravity of this situation.”
“Alright, so what is it y’all are looking for?” Miss Slam asked. JJ cleared his throat. Curt said nothing.
JJ said: “We’re trying to figure out everything we can on three matters at the moment. One: The Patron Saint of Lumberjacks. Two: The Old Johnson House. Three: The Boogeyman. How they are all connected and what are the three known ways to eradicate the sick, demonic bastard.”
“Oh,” Miss Slam remarked as if struck, “like in the song. The three ways to stop him from doin’ what he do and all of that! I know: horrible grammar, but what can I say?”
“You could start by saying a whole lot less, bitch,” Curt muttered under his breath, barely loud enough for JJ to catch the whole phrase. She didn’t seem to hear him, thank the Lord. Before JJ could even fathom what he should say in response to Curt’s sour statement, the internet came through with another piece of the puzzle. JJ noticed a familiar graphic symbol in the upper left corner of the webpage.
“Miss Slam, will you please read to us what we’ve got. I don’t wanna mispronounce anything.”
“Of course, sugar,” Miss Slam replied, inching even closer to JJ.
She cleared her throat and began reciting from the webpage: “Saint Gummarus, also known as Gomer, Gommaire, Guntmar, Gummar, Gommar. Born in seven-seventeen at ; died seven-seventy-four of natural causes. He’s The Patron Saint of Carpenters, lumberjacks, and woodcutters among others. Why is this important, JJ?”
“Okay, Curt. Would you kindly pass me the duffle, homie?” JJ held out his hands, expectantly. Curt sat as still as a marble bust, glaring at JJ with contempt. For a moment, JJ was unequivocally frightened of his best friend. When instantly, Curt’s countenance brightened, and he smiled and winked at JJ. Miss Slam sat awkwardly observing the whole affair.
“Sure, homie,” Curt said in a chillingly cheerful tone that JJ had never heard him use before. Ever. In a short series of stiff awkward movements, Curt retrieved the duffle bag containing HB and passed it to JJ.
“Thanks.” JJ replied suspiciously, and then added: “You okay, homie, you straight?”
“I’m right as rain Joey-boy; peachy keen and full of joy!” Curt sang in a voice not his own.
JJ sat abashed, staring at Curt, as his best friend beamed a grin a little too wide for any human mouth—other than maybe Mister Jim Carry. Curt winked periodically. JJ noticed that Curt’s eyes were not their usual emerald shade, but the same jaundice yellow of Boogeyman’s. JJ turned slightly to glance at Miss Slam who glanced back, shrugged, and then turned her attention back to the glowing computer screen as if nothing was amiss. JJ turned back to address his friend.
“W-w-what did you say, Curtis?”
“I said I’m straight, homie. But you don’t look so hot, JJ. Ya know what I’m sayin’? Curt spoke in his own normal voice.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” JJ fibbed.
Curt just stared at JJ incredulously.
“No,” a little closer to the truth now, JJ locked eyes with his friend’s. Curt’s were green again, to JJ’s relief.
Curt folded his arms across his beefy chest and continued to stare skeptically at JJ.
“I just got a pounding headache all of a sudden!” JJ blurted, lying again.
“Whatever, homie,” Curt said, annoyed. “I just wanted to make sure you weren’t dying of an aneurism, or some shit. You were about to show off your new best friend.”
“Come on Curt—”
“Don’t JJ, just don’t,” Curt interrupted. “Let’s just do what we came here to do so we can get on with our day. Ya know what I’m sayin’?”
JJ nodded and turned to face Miss Slam, who had just finished reading the Gummarus article, as he unzipped the duffle bag. She seemed keenly interested in what JJ had to reveal, but refrained from peeking until he was ready to divulge what it was. Peering into the bag’s depths, JJ reached in and wrapped his right hand firmly around the handle of his hatchet-buddy. He paused before he pulled HB free from its confines to look deep into Miss Slam’s eyes. She smiled, her whole face brightening. JJ couldn’t help but to smile right back. Staring into each other’s eyes at that moment, a connection occurred between him and the beautiful, young librarian. JJ knew that he could trust this woman, this Lette, with his life. And that he would die before anything untoward happened to her. Not breaking eye contact, JJ slowly lifted HB into view. Her eyes widened comically.
“Th-that’s quite the hatchet you’ve got there, sugar.” Then her eyes found the symbol etched on the neck: “That’s not just an ordinary hatchet, is it JJ?”
“No Miss Slam, it isn’t. I stole this from Boogeyman in one of my dreams and somehow brought it out into the real world. How he stole it from the tomb of Saint Gummarus is another enigma altogether.
“JJ, you do realize that this all sounds very familiar, like right out of a certain horror movie franchise I love?” She was highly amused.
“Ugh, why does everyone I confide this to, say that?” JJ asked himself aloud, shaking his head.
“Because all this supernatural, Boogeyman shit is pretty unbelievable, JJ. Ya know what I’m sayin’?” Curt answered.
“Damn, homie. Either you believe me and have my back or you don’t! Pick one!” JJ demanded, exploding from his seat.
Curt stood methodically, never taking his green eyes off of JJ’s blue ones. Never, during their entire friendship, had JJ spoken to Curt in such a manner as he just had. Never was Curt so close to ripping his best friend to pieces with his bare hands as he was at this moment. The tension between them was palpable. It seemed to draw the very oxygen from the air. Just as Miss Slam was about to intercede on behalf of reason and friendship, Curt spoke, shattering the hostile atmosphere that had oozed into the room.
“JJ, I’ve got two words for you and they’re not “suck it.” They’re: FUCK YOU! I’m outta here!” Curt bellowed, as he stormed out of the building, kicking chairs out of his path as he went.
Curt’s two words were like a blast from a 12 gauge double-barrel shotgun to JJ’s chest. Wounded, JJ slumped back into his chair, breathless. Now he really did have a headache. JJ felt so confused and overwhelmed that he wanted to cry, but he didn’t dare in front of Miss Slam. How did all that get so heated between Curt and me so fast and for no reason, JJ wondered. He looked up into her beautiful, concerned face, and smiled in spite of how he was feeling. Before the moment became any more awkward, Miss Slam turned back to the computer screen.
“You know, JJ. I’ve got a couple girlfriends who might be able to help with this research of yours. That is if you want the help.”
“Sure, as long as you tell them it’s for a school project or something. I don’t want to be responsible for putting anyone else on Boogeyman’s radar,” JJ added.
“Oh I see, but its okay to put me on this monster’s radar, huh, JJ?” she asked half-jokingly.
“No! That’s not—”
“I know, JJ. I’m just messing with you. Do you want a ride home?”
“That, Miss Slam, would be straight-up fresh. Thank you. However, I think I’ll walk. You know get some exercise, take in some smog, that sort of thing.”
“Well if you’re positive you don’t want a ride. Will you have to do me a quick favor before you leave?”
“Anything,” JJ replied.
“You’re cute, sugar. Please pick up those chairs your hot-tempered friend abused. You sure you don’t want a lift it’s no trouble.”
“No problem, Miss Slam. It’ll be my pleasure, and yeah I’m sure.”
JJ busied himself with cleaning up the aftermath of Curt’s tantrum. As he did so, he stole a few quick glances at Miss Slam. Every time he did, her head would sharply snap to her own busy work—a strange slightly embarrassed look on her beautiful face. JJ smiled as he set the last chair to rights. He wished he could think of some excuse to linger, but knew he should take his leave. After exchanging goodbyes with Miss Slam, JJ headed for the exit.
The heavy industrial door squealed in protest when JJ shoved it open. As he crossed the threshold he tossed a glance over his shoulder for one last peep of Miss Slam. She was unabashedly looking right at his posterior. Was Miss Slam checking me out? JJ thought as the door crashed closed. Shouldering his duffle protectively, JJ kicked rocks.
Thoughts of Miss Slam carried him across the campus and down Catalpa Drive. How she smelled like sugar cookies. The way her eyes sparkled when she smiled. How perfect her hair looked except for one rebellious curl. The swell of her—
As JJ neared Kipling Avenue a sickeningly familiar stench assaulted his senses breaking him out of his reverie. Instantly his heart began to jackhammer in his chest. His breath quickened. His eyes stared to water. His knees weakened. He wanted to vomit. Keep it together JJ! He commanded himself as he groped for a nearby lamppost. Forcibly JJ regained control of his faculties.
Tears streamed down his cheeks as he fumbled with the zipper of his duffle. Finally gaining some purchase, JJ thrust his hand through the small void. He gripped the neck of his hatchet-buddy violently, desperately. The weight of it in his hand finished centering him. Slowly JJ scanned his surroundings for the source of that foul smell. Unfortunately before JJ could zero in on the source, the source found him.
“Wanna play a game youngster?” A haggard, wizened voice croaked dripping with a thick Russian dialect.
“What the—” JJ exclaimed, startled.
JJ spun on his heels ready for anything. Anything that is but what he actually encountered. Seated before him on the sidewalk was an old man. A homeless man garbed in a hodge-podge of old rags and plastic bags. A miasma of stale vodka and rotten eggs hung around him like sewer gas. The old man stared up at JJ with an expectant look. Two bright and distinctively different toned eyes beamed at him from a grimy, bearded face. One a faded blue bombardier eye and the other albino crimson.
“Give ya a fright did I, heh!” The old man cackled.
“Yeah, old-timer, you did.” JJ quipped more sharply than intended.
“Old, heh! He thinks we’re old.” The old man said to the ether.
“If he only knew.”
“Yeah youngster, if you only knew.” The man taunted.
“What the—what was that?” JJ asked. “How’d you do that trick with your voice old man?”
The old man looked at JJ: “What the what was what voice?”
He then looked to his left: “Life is a beautiful catastrophe.”
And he looked to his right: “Play on Mister Jazzman.”
He looked to the heavens: “Got any chetveroks?”
Finally the old man looked back to JJ, now crouched directly in front of him: “Oh you mean Nikolai, heh? Don’t speak any more Nikolai, you’re scaring people again.”
“Who is Nikolai precisely?” JJ inquired.
“Nikolai’s my, how do you say in English, my life coach.”
“I think he’s misled you homie.”
“If he only knew.”
“Is Nikolai’s vocabulary limited to those four words or is he capable of singing old-time tunes maybe?” JJ pondered aloud.
At that the old man cackled wildly, slapping his knee to beat the band. As the old man wriggled and giggled JJ noticed a smelly substance pooling beneath the geezer. To JJ’s disgust blatant realization came to his mind. Like an omelet bleeding cheese onto a breakfast plate, a torrent of offal oozed from the old man. Before JJ could give voice to his repugnance the old man cracked a joke.
“What’s brown and sits in Captain Kirk’s toilet?”
“I don’t know you gross old man.” JJ replied inching away so as not to befoul his kicks. “I’m trying not to puke over here.”
“The Captain’s log, heh!”
“Very funny old man,” JJ responded.
“How ’bout them gas prices?”
The old man passed gas. A sickening squelching sound which elicited a gale of fresh giggles from the old man, but turned JJ’s stomach inside out. JJ wanted to run. Boot this disgusting old guy in his grill and takeoff like a rocket. Instead JJ decided this guy needed help more than harm.
“What’s your name old man?” JJ inquired.
“Old man works for me.”
“Alright, well, do you need some help to a shelter old man? Or a toilet,” JJ added under his breath.
“Naw youngster, I don’t need a fancy-shmancy shelter. I’m a, how do you say, um, a hobo not homeless. I am the Hobo Preacher!”
“Okay then. You have a good time with being a hobo preacher and marinating in your own poop and all. I, uh, I gotta bounce. Peace old man.”
The Hobo Preacher’s next words turned JJ’s spine to ice.
“You’ve seen the leprous beast, heh. Haven’t you youngster? Heard the chanting of the melancholy children?”
“Y-y-you don’t know what you’re talking about old man.” JJ stammered as he hugged his duffle tighter to his side.
“If he only knew.”
The old man nodded solemnly: “What he said.”
“Whatever old man,” JJ said incredulously. “I’m done with you playin’ me for a—”
“A huge, black, decaying beast roughly the size of a large Grizzly, with piss colored eyes and a smell that’ll singe your nose hair. Otherwise known as, in some circle-jerks, as the—”
The old man cut his words off. Something seemed to catch his attention. JJ looked around and noticed nothing of particular interest. The old man drew his hands up to his face looked at his fingers oddly then shook his head negatively. Cautiously JJ approached the old man again, careful not to step in anything undesirable.
“Old man,” JJ prompted.
The old man didn’t respond. Just sat, staring at his fingers.
JJ pushed further: “Old man, you were saying…”
The old man, self proclaimed Hobo Preacher, continued to stare at his hands as if the secrets of the universe was etched upon them. After a moment he began to hum a sad eerie tune. JJ could hardly believe his ears; the tune wasn’t unfamiliar to him. As the old man began to sing solemnly in Russian, JJ feared his sanity would flee.
“Tili tili bom the nightbirds are chirping. He is inside the house, to visit those who can’t sleep. He walks…He is coming…closer.”
The old man’s singing died back down to a haunting hum, then cut-off completely. JJ stared at the old man staring at his hands. The air felt weighted and suddenly difficult to breathe. JJ franticly gasped for a breath that didn’t taste of stale vodka and sewage, but was gravely disappointed.
“Old man,” JJ persuaded as he tried in vain to spit that nasty taste from his mouth. “Old, hem, old man you still with me.
“Uno!” the old man screeched.
JJ jumped. Scared to the point he almost soiled his britches, JJ chuckled in spite of his terror. This disgusting old Russian ninja is a trip, he thought as he caught his breath.
“What do you mean Uno, we’re playing Go Fish!” The old man ranted. “Nyet. Nyet. Nyet. We’ve been playing Go Fish the whole time.”
“Old man,” JJ tried.
The old man continued his tirade: “I asked you to play? No, you asked me to play. Yes you did. Yes you did! Fine, act like a child get treated like a child. I didn’t wanna play anymore anyway.”
“Old man,” he tried again.
“Oh, hi-yuh youngster,” the old man smiled. At least JJ thought it was a smile.
“Hey old man, welcome back.” JJ returned the old man’s grin. “What were you saying a second ago, can you remember?”
“You’re gonna have to refresh the ole memory banks there, youngster. What were we talking about now?”
JJ swallowed hard: “The melancholy children and the yellow eyed—”
The old man held up a filthy hand to stave off JJ’s words: “I remember, I remember say no more. I know all about what you wanna know all about The Melancholy Children and The Rotting Grim.”
The old man’s eyes darkened. He looked JJ square in the face. The tone of his voice seemed to match his gaze. All of a sudden JJ wasn’t too sure he wanted to hear what the old man had to say.
“Now I don’t know who told you your fairy fables about the Rotting Grim, but this beast ain’t no, how do you say, puppy-dog. We’re talkin’ ’bout a true blue dyed in the wool Hellhound here youngster. A lapdog of the Son of Perdition himself, only this one is different; born rotten. A deformed castoff meant to be returned to the fire, but was rescued, in turn, by yet another deformed castoff.”
“I believe I know of whom you speak old man.” JJ interjected.
The old man nodded knowingly then continued his accent becoming so thick JJ had to fight to take in every word.
“The Rotting Grim is property of the Feasting Beast, and is fiercely loyal to its master. The Feasting Beast wanted a companion of his own, see. Something he could teach. Something he could feed. Something he could love. As much as a, a, a thing like that could love I guess. The damned nurturing the damned nurturing the damned: Infinity. However there was no possible way his adoptive father would warrant him such a request.
So being the type of fiend that the Feasting Beast is, he took it. He gathered all the strength he could muster and broke free of his bonds. Like a thief in the night he snatched up the deformed hell-pup. Concealing his prize God knows where and feeding it God knows what, he nursed the gnarled little ball of compost into the Rotting Grim.
The Melancholy Children, on the other hand, are the damned souls of the Feasting Beasts victims. Devious black-eyed specters filled with sadness, malice and hate is what they are. They sing their doomed lullaby not as a warning but as a sort of, how do you say in your tongue, a proclamation of their owners arrival.
So youngster, if you’ve seen The Rotting Grim or heard The Melancholy Children and lived to tell the tale you are either lucky or marked. And if you’re marked youngster, Heaven help you. Because once you’ve been marked by a soul-reaver, Devine assistance is the only chance you got to keep your essence intact.”
“Whoa, hold on old man. You lost me there.” JJ pronounced confused. “Who’s this ‘Feasting Beast’ character? What’s a soul-reaver? How do you know all of this crap anyway?”
The old man began to laugh, but his mirth was cut short by a violent coughing fit. The old man sounded so terrible JJ thought the guy was going to hack up a lung right there. The sudden onset of coughing ended as abruptly as it had begun. The old man mumbled an apology as he wiped his mouth. JJ noticed fresh blood on the old man’s gloved hand, though the old man seemed to noticed nothing.
“Hey, old man, are you sure—”
“Sure!” the old man interrupted. “I’m sure of three things youngster, heh! A: The person you believe you can trust the most is false. Two: When the time comes don’t let her leave—you’ll regret it. And Tree: Don’t let anyone fool you, we were playing Go Fish.”
A savage spasm rocked the old man. JJ was sure it broke his back. He reached out to comfort the old man, but suffered reflexive recoil—thankfully. The old man vomited a ridiculous amount of blood. Copious amounts. Thoroughly exsanguinated, the old man emitted what JJ would later in life describe as a death wail. The light in his two-toned eyes extinguished, the old man fell over as dead as a doornail.
JJ backed up slowly, slightly in shock. He had never actually seen anyone die before. He’d watched people die in the movies and on television all the time sure, but not right before his very eyes. Not like what he had just experienced. Unaware of what he was doing or where he was going, JJ stumbled off the curb. Landing hard on the asphalt, the impact robbed him of his breath. He knew he should get up and out of the street; however an unexplainable overwhelming sensation urged him to stay prone.
All off a sudden lying in the middle of the street didn’t seem like a ridiculous idea. It was rather comfortable. Why didn’t more people lay in the street? JJ pondered. He gripped his duffle bag like a child with a favorite teddy bear and stretched. Comfortable, JJ was so lost in his thoughts he didn’t notice the ’88 Chevy Cavalier bearing down on him. Oh look at the pretty lights. JJ thought as the car screamed to a halt inches before disaster. A familiar, sweet voice broke through whatever spell JJ had been under.
“Get your butt in this car sugar.” Miss Slam ordered. “You’re getting a ride home whether you want one or not.”
JJ sat in an uncomfortable embarrassed silence after clambering into Miss Slam’s car. He caught a glimpse of his flustered flushed face in the makeup mirror on the sun visor as he reached to close the door. Crestfallen he quickly flipped it up and away not wanting to look at his mortified mug. He was so ashamed he wished he could crawl inside his duffle to hide. Sensing his tension Miss Slam allowed him a moment to compose himself before delving into why she just found him sprawled out in the middle of Catalpa Ave.
“So you want to tell me what that was all about back there, sugar?”
“What?” JJ answered feigning ignorance.
“Really JJ, don’t play dumb with me sugar. Why were you sprawled out in the middle of the street?”
“I don’t know Miss Slam.” JJ admitted. “Seemed like the right thing to do for some reason, after watching someone die—grotesquely—before your eyes.”
“Someone died? You watched someone die and you didn’t call for help?” Miss Slam inquired incredulously.
“No! Yes, no, I don’t know. It all happened so fast.”
“What did, what happened so fast? You can tell me all about it sugar, if you want.”
The rest of the short ride JJ recounted everything that had transpired since he left her presence. He didn’t leave out any of his interaction with the last living (now deceased) Hobo Preacher, except the disembodied voice—Nikolai. He didn’t want her to think he was losing his mind, after all. When he came to the part where the old man keeled over he was surprised to find that he was actually fighting back tears of sadness. By the time JJ was finished with his recap, they were pulling up to his house. Miss Slam had more questions then she believed JJ had answers to. About the homeless man, about his cryptic message, especially about the Feasting Beast, the Melancholy Children and this Rotting Grim creature, but she didn’t want to press JJ any further. However, there was one nagging fact she just had to vocalize.
“JJ, sugar, I believe what you’re tell me here.” Miss Slam reassured him tenderly. “Please don’t think that I don’t, but I didn’t see a homeless person, deceased or otherwise, anywhere around when I stopped to scoop you up out of the street.”
“Y-you didn’t?” JJ asked abashed. “But, but he was there. He was crazy and disgusting and literally lying dead in a puddle of his own filth!”
“Calm down sugar. I said I believe you. I just didn’t see—”
“Just because you didn’t see him doesn’t mean he wasn’t there.” JJ snapped.
“Yes, I guess that’s technically true but—”
“Just like the bloody kid Curt saw that nobody else did.”
JJ interrupted once more: “No Miss Slam, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have lashed out at you like that. You have been so kind and helpful. That was really rude and disrespectful of me. Maybe I was hallucinating. Maybe the whole exchange was a day-mere I had while kickin’ it in the street, I don’t know.”
Miss Slam took JJ’s hand in hers. Her touch sent a pleasurable wave of electricity throughout his entire body. Suddenly JJ realized just how close the quarters were inside her car. God she smelled so good. Her skin is so soft and supple. JJ battled the urge to stroke a finger down her lovely cheek. Something unspoken passed between them. JJ could see it in her eyes as she released his hand.
“Sugar,” Miss Slam said breathlessly. “I think it’s time I took my leave. I’ve got some research to get started.”
“Miss Slam I—,” JJ began, whispering past his dry throat.
It was her turn to interrupt him: “JJ it’s all good sugar. I accept your apology. Now I want you to scoot. Go take a nice hot shower and get a good night sleep. In your own bed this time, not the street.”
“You got it Miss Slam. Have a good night.” JJ bade farewell, as he reluctantly climbed out of her car.
“Oh! JJ one more thing,” Miss Slam beckoned.
Shocked JJ stopped dead in his tracks. He thought he knew what her next words were going to be, and the thought scared and excited him at the same time. A feeling told him her next sentence would change his life. She’s going to say those three little words that change every! JJ mind screamed at him like a drill sergeant laying into a shiftless new recruit. Trying not to sound overtly giddy JJ responded. “Yes Miss Slam.”
“Sweet dreams, sugar.”
Standing in his driveway, duffle bag securely in hand, JJ watched Miss Slam’s taillights fade into the distance more than slightly embarrassed. Wearily he turned and stared at the darkened windows of his house. Considering everything that had transpired, and everything that was still left to accomplish made his brain ache. It seemed an insurmountable task that lay ahead, but with the help and support of Miss Slam, his best friend Curt—if he still had a best friend—and the Almighty, JJ felt it was within his realm of capabilities. I have to patch things up between me and Curt, JJ thought, as he cast a cursory glance over his shoulder at Curt’s house. With a heavy sigh, JJ trudged across the driveway, up the walk, and through the front door.
Inside his humble abode all was as quiet as a tomb. JJ switched a light on and found a note from his mother taped to the television. JJ smiled as he read the note. It seemed his mother was whisked away again by for another night out. That’s awesome, JJ thought, mom deserves an old- fashioned gentleman. JJ’s pleasant thoughts about his mother’s happiness carried him to his bedroom door, where they died instantly. After everything that had transpired over the last couple of days and the nightmares of the past few weeks, he didn’t know how he was going to be able to fall asleep. Or worse, deal with any nightmares that awaited him.
JJ turned the knob methodically and slowly pushed the door open. Before crossing the threshold, JJ withdrew HB and let the duffle slip to the floor. The feel of HB in his hand steeled JJ’s courage, as he entered his bedroom. JJ switched the lights on irrationally expecting to find something terrible. The room was as he had left it—messy but utterly harmless. JJ relaxed a bit and quickly changed for bed.
JJ returned HB to its resting place under his pillow and made a mental note to retrieve HB’s case from Curt’s house tomorrow when he went over to apologize for today. I think maybe I’ll get up early and try going to church again, JJ thought, easing his aching body into bed with a groan. The bed felt so good, that blessed sleep came swiftly and easily for once. Unbeknownst to JJ, the Boogeyman had intended great terrors for JJ this night, but decided he had bigger fish to fry with his earthly agent. JJ’s subconscious—thankfully not vexed by nightmares—gave him blissful dreams of Miss Michelle Slam in a bikini, then out of the bikini. JJ smiled and farted in his sleep.