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“Just for Laughs” by Liam Moran

            I swear when I told Pretty-boy Pete this, he nearly lost his shit.

            My dad’s all stern—he’s got those frown lines pronounced so you know he’s serious—and he says to me, “What happened to you? You were at the top of your class in high school. You were always on honor roll. You were always on the dean’s list. And now here you are, drinking, drugging, driving drunk. What happened to your brain?”

            I smile—I can’t help but smile—and I say, “It drowned in bourbon.” And I just laugh my ass off. My dad keeps trying to lecture me and I just laugh louder and louder.

            So when I tell my buddy Pete this—I always do—he busts a big old gut and he says, “Ain’t that a fuckin’ hoot.”

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            That’s what it was—our catch phrase. Any time we found something entertaining, the phrase ‘Ain’t that a fuckin’ hoot’ was sure to follow. It had such a dirty twang to it. It sounded like one of those phrases that some greaseball says in some old-time seventies or eighties movie. So it just kind of stuck. You know those little inside jokes among friends. Try to explain it to someone else, and people will look at you all mouth agape and stupid; but say it to your best buddy, well, you two will be rolling on the floor.

            You see, we were able to see what nobody else could see. Pete ain’t too bright, but he at least accepted this truth: the world’s a fucking joke. Nothing more. It’s just a joke, and if you’re not laughing, then why the hell even come to the comedy club. You stop laughing for more than a day: well, you oughta end it right there. Slit your wrists and exit stage right.

            You see, Pretty-boy Pete got his nickname for his looks, if you’re too stupid to figure that out on your own. He ain’t got a lot upstairs, but his looks were enough to get his dick wet. And that’s where he got his laughs. Find one slut, do what you need, then move onto the next. I swear, he went through more cases of chlamydia than one of those sniveling twerps with bad allergies goes through tissues. He used to have the nickname ‘Penicillin Pete’ for a while, but he didn’t like it. So I had my laughs and then backed off.

            See, I wasn’t so lucky. Sure, I wasn’t fuck-ugly or anything, but I had to work for it. I’ve had a couple of fine pieces of tail, but I really had to work the game. It’s hard, but a little manipulation goes a long way.

            So another night I come home so shitfaced that I bump into my pop’s car. Rich schmuck paid for a brand new one, so you bet your ass he’s fuming. He’s shouting at me, “What the hell is wrong with you?! Are you fucking dense?!” It took all I could muster to stifle my laughter.

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            So then he calms down, and begins his old lecture again. “What happened to you?” He’s all nauseatingly sincere about it too. I can’t decide whether I should bust a gut or spew. “You were at the top of your class in high school…” You know where this is going. He must have given me this speech about a hundred times, so I zone out until it’s my turn. Then he says my cue, “What happened to your brain?”

            “It got lost on its last acid trip,” I belt out and roar another round of laughter. Man, I had a new response for every time.

            Then he starts slapping me, but I can’t help it. I can’t stop laughing. And his feeble attempt to stop me only adds to the hilarity.

            I tell Pretty-boy Pete that one and he laughs so hard, the bourbon shoots straight out of his nose. Then he says, “Ain’t that a fuckin’ hoot.” And we laugh some more.

            I’m twenty-four and I see what nobody else sees. Everyone’s breaking their backs trying to put food on the table. Dipshits who forgot to wear a rubber have children to feed. Everyone’s wasting their time working and growing up, when they miss out on the fun. Meanwhile, I’m cruising down the road with a bottle in my hand laughing my ass off.

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            So this one time I’m in the car with Pete. He’s got one spliff in his mouth and one tucked behind his ear, and he’s taking huge rips off it. The road’s hard to see with the smoke accumulating on the dashboard. So I roll down the window, take a swig of Jim Beam, and press down on the pedal.

            “Hey,” I say to Pete, “hold this and give me a hit.” I hand him the bottle and he gives me the joint.

            I take a good long rip. Then I take another. Then another.

            “Quit fuckin’ hoggin’ it,” Pete complains.

            “You got one tucked behind your ear,” I tell him.

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            “Yeah, but it’s my weed,” he says.

            “Oh, who gives a shit?” I say.

            “Give it, man,” he says.

            I blow out a cloud and concede, “Fine, you fucking fiend,” then I hand him back the joint.

            We drive a bit longer and I feel the cold wind whip my sweaty scalp. The pot blows in my face as if Pretty-boy Pete is trying to tempt me with it. Fucking asshole. I take another swig of bourbon.

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            “Say, know what we should do?” I say to Pete.

            “What?” he says.

            “Let’s go fuck up Ron’s car,” I say.

            You see, Ron’s this asshole we used to know. He always used to pick fights with me for no reason at all. He just had some grudge against me. I don’t know why he singled me out, but I ain’t somebody who forgives easy.

            “Ron?” Pete asks and I nod. “Why Ron? I haven’t heard from him in years.”

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            “You got something better to do?” I raise an eyebrow.

            He shrugs and says, “Whatever.”

            He didn’t seem too enthusiastic at first, but the moment we took the baseball bats out of the trunk, he looked like a kid in a candy shop. We fucked that car up: broke his tail lights, busted his hood, shattered his windows; ain’t nothing in that piece of shit mobile was untouched.

            We start driving back fast, fleeing the scene, just cracking up. “Ain’t that a fuckin’ hoot,” Pete says, and we laugh some more. We haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. So then the laughter dies down, and Pete says, “You sure that was Ron’s car?”

            I look at him, then start to grin, then we both start laughing louder than ever. Was it? I thought it was. But I haven’t seen or heard from him in almost five years, so maybe he moved. God damn. Ain’t that a fuckin’ hoot.

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            So we’re feeling that nice crossfaded buzz—just cruising with the pedal down—and damned if we didn’t finish that entire fucking bottle of Jim Beam. We must have also killed an eighth of bud too. We’re all numb and tingly and warm and fuzzy and not entirely sure if we’ve pissed ourselves or not. But one thing was for sure: we were laughing our asses off. That’s the way we were: always laughing.

            So then my song comes on: it’s “Blinded by the Light”. God, I love that song.

            So I turn to Pete and I say, “Roll another joint; this is my smoking song.”

            “We’re out of bud,” he says.

            “What do you mean we’re out of bud?” I ask.

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            “I mean just what I said,” he says. “We smoked damn-near an eighth.”

            “Well give me a cigarette,” I say. “I need to smoke something.”

            So he hands me a cigarette, and—you’re gonna love this—I’m so fucked up I light the filter. What a fuckin’ riot.

            So I get another one and succeed this time. I tell you, lighting a smoke while driving when you’re seeing double is no small feat. So I spark the square and keep driving with my eyelids at half-mast.

            Right when we get to my favorite part of the song, it happens. Right after Paul Jones tells his momma where the fun is for the last time, and Manfred Mann starts his iconic keyboard solo, our car comes to a violent halt.

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            We smash right into another car; I have no idea how many miles per hour we were going. Pete wasn’t wearing a seatbelt—I told you he ain’t got a lot upstairs—and he goes flying right through the windshield. Can you imagine that? Just broke through the glass headfirst and flew through the air.

            The airbag explodes in my face, and the car crumples and shatters my leg in three places, and the empty bourbon bottle shatters and imbeds itself all throughout my busted up leg. I mean, what are the fucking chances, right?

            So when I finally am able to drag myself out of the car, I see Pete lying twenty feet in front of the car dead as a fucking doorknob. I walk up to him, crying my eyes out, dragging my bum leg, and he smells rank. And—get this—he literally shit himself. I’m not making this stuff up! A complete bowel discharge! I’m screaming in tears. I’m devastated. My only friend is lying there stone-dead. I mean, what are the chances?

            So now I’m sitting in a courtroom before a judge. I’m facing vehicular manslaughter, reckless endangerment, driving under the influence, and the prosecutor is pushing for life. You see, the car that I crashed into was carrying a husband and wife and their only son. The mother is still in a coma, the father only suffered a few broken bones, and their son died in the accident.

            And—this is the real kicker—they were celebrating their son making honor roll again. Get a load of that! He was honor role, dean’s list, top of his class, just like I used to be. What are the fucking chances?

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            My mother is clinging to my father, and in both of their eyes it’s Niagara Falls. They’re sobbing and holding each other for support. My only real friend is now being turned into soil by hungry worms.

            And then—get this—the judge, he leans over and asks me, “What happened to your brain?”

            Now ain’t that a fuckin’ hoot.

Author, Liam Moran

Liam Moran has been published in Coffin Bell Journal and Ripples in Space and his novels, ‘Saving Fiction’ and ‘Love is Delusional’, are available on Amazon. Originally from Levittown, New York, he now resides in the suburbs of Chicago. He invites fans to follow him on his Facebook page @LiamMoranAuthor or on his website at amazon.com/author/liammoran.

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Original Creations

Dirty Clean Sweep, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Wendell was a germophobe. His obsessions with cleanliness extended far beyond the reach of OCD and even hypochondria, because for all that he was totally infatuated with his own mortality and utterly convinced that he was sick, it was his peculiar obsession with germs that eventually drove him to an insanity that doomed the world to an unexpected and dire destruction. For Wendell was the reason for the Clean Sweep.

When the COVID pandemic happened, it only increased Wendell’s fear, and his germophobia worsened significantly. He started meticulously waxing all of the hair off of his body, even his eyebrows, and would shower several times per day, using an abrasive pumice to slough off any dead skin that might otherwise accumulate and attract mites. As his manners and habits surrounding cleanliness became more and more rigid and involved, he left his house less and less for any reason whatsoever. He began to treat his home environment like a hospital or chemical facility and reworked everything to minimize debris, personally installing air filtration systems that rivaled some of the most sterile industry environments and cleaning everything constantly (he had once worked in HVAC and now no longer trusted anyone else to be involved in his efforts).

He took advantage of all of the delivery services, with packages coming to his back porch once weekly. He had everything on video camera and would scream at anyone who didn’t follow his explicit instructions through a small speaker in the ceiling. If a delivery-person didn’t first sanitize their hands with the supplied wipes and then put on latex gloves and booties before turning the door handle to drop their package on the specified table, they were yelled at and reported, and a bad review was left for whatever service had sent them.

Dirty Clean hand sanitizer out and about
Dirty Clean…

Wendell only order packaged foods, simple soups and cereals that would not come in contact with the world outside of their factory packaged settings. He meticulously researched processing plants to determine what he could and could not consume according to his own standards of cleanliness. When a parcel was delivered, he would leave it where it sat for two to three days time depending on the weather, all the while monitoring it. He would eventually suit up in a tyvek jumpsuit, goggled and gloved, and brave the porch himself in order to extract his needed food and hygiene supplies. Whilst there, he would spray and wipe down the porch, replenish the hand sanitizing wipes and latex gloves, and take everything that might have come into contact with the outside world out with his trash. The cycle would then repeat again a few days later. Every delivery included yet more gear to perpetuate his clean infatuation. More latex gloves, more wipes, more sprays, more tyvek suits… And every time his labors increased…

While Wendell continued to go about his business, ordering life necessities like soap and soup online, a slow and subtle change to his environment began to take over. It wasn’t obvious and, as he never put any distance between himself and his bubble world, he was unaware of the shift. It began because of a spore, well more of an anti-spore like blossoming of suddenly self-aware sterilization. No one really knows where it came from, or how it managed to get such a strong foothold, but perhaps it was because of Wendell’s meticulous cleaning habits. For this strange and unusual being, or beings as it were (for it was hard to tell whether there was a single individual or a number of them all acting under one consciousness), though unaffected by cleaning reagents and the like, had once been highly susceptible to bacteria and rarely survived at length when competing for resources with other species previous to its evolution in Wendell’s abode. But the bereft home was the perfect outpost for it to thrive, and it finally managed to gain a foothold. It grew rapidly and had soon infiltrated most every corner.

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As mentioned, Wendell didn’t notice, or perhaps he welcomed the change. For this strange surface skimmer actually looked even cleaner than its surroundings, appearing as an even brighter less dingy white that almost seemed to glow. It embodied cleanliness, at least insofar as we have come to perceive the concept. And the more that it acclimated to its habitat, the more resilient it became, learning to alter its own surroundings to its gain by killing off any and all other life forms that stood in its way. When a small quantity of some bacteria or mite or other single-celled threat was introduced, say on a box surface or embedded in the cardboard, the newly evolved clean critter would attack and annihilate them almost as if it were itself composed of harsh cleansers like bleach and ammonia. It seemed to develop a memory for different organisms and found a way to destroy most everything. It steadily increased in size and became stronger and stronger.

Clean Dirty hand sanitizer out and about
Clean Dirty…

Finally, one day, it had grown large enough to determine that Wendell himself was a threat, for no matter how clean his environment or person was, he still harbored a myriad of organisms required to keep a human healthy and fully functioning. He was inherently dirty and had to be eliminated. And so the creature he had fostered at length, by providing a nearly sterile environment for its incubation, rose up and destroyed him. It did so while he was sleeping and so he had no awareness of what had happened; had he realized a blanket of seemingly sudsy foam was suffocating him he would have panicked thinking it was some sort of bacterial infection or the like. But he blissfully slept through his untimely death, and the aggressive new organism worked to dispel all of the unclean bits and detritus of his being.

After finally taking over the whole of the house, this new creature began to spread, much like a fungus or a rot, dismantling all in its path in order to leave a wake of clean sterile nothingness. Although it has been said that nature abhors a vacuum, somehow this void had become powerful enough to negate that and continued on its path of complete and utter destruction, leaving nothing living in its path. Before too long it had absorbed the two neighboring houses, and then the houses just beyond those, in a sort of reverse infection that defied logical explanation. The local health department and center for disease control were perplexed; these spaces seemed too clean to harbor such a deadly silent killer and yet something was slowly annihilating everything in its path on a microscopic level. It almost acted like a slow progressing chemical spill but yet there was no evidence of such either.

Before long, word had gotten out and samples had been taken and distributed across the globe. One of those samples was eventually leaked intentionally, as a weapon of mass destruction, and was unable to later be contained. The Clean Sweep was upon all and the world began to be disinfected wholly as it spread. Life was literally in the balance, slated to be eradicated and left to a sort of shiny surface devoid of substance. All was being cleansed, slowly but surely. What started with Wendell, whom would never be known or acknowledged as the source of this new terror, had grown to be much larger.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

If you enjoyed this tale, here is another creepy story about cleanliness. Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

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Original Creations

More Nail Polish Paintings by Jennifer Weigel

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Well, seems I’m at it again, with more nail polish paintings into found thrift store art. Why so many flowers this time…? Well a friend sent them and I just couldn’t help myself. They are so perfect for creepy fairy paintings. And for those of you who think fairies aren’t scary, you haven’t read much about the fey now have you?

More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel
More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel

Top left: Blue Fairy, originally painted by M Wadorf

Top right: Pegasus, originally painted by Edie Babb

Bottom left: Unicorn, originally painted by R Lovelace (After I painted this I realized I missed the opportunity to do a troll with a bridge and so I hope to do another along those lines in the future.)

Bottom middle: Fairy, originally painted by SD Janz

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Bottom right: Dragon, original signed FZ, very sparkly with black-light sensitive eyes

And the most horrific of the bunch this time is this mermaid, who started as a weird bucket painting by Helen Miller… So, what’s in the bucket, Helen? Body parts? Fish? Plants not yet in bloom? I envisioned a trapped mermaid waiting to ensnare some unsuspecting land-goer, because no one would expect to find a mermaid there…

Mermaid in bucket, original by Helen Miller
Is this mermaid trapped in need of help or just trying to lure you close?

So I broke down and redid the unicorn to a troll. Apparently the troll was hungry… Anyway, here is the result. I am happier with it now.

Troll with toll bridge, original by R Lovelace
Hungry troll wants bridge tolls after eating innocent unicorn.

You can find more of my Revisitations art on Haunted MTL here, including links to even more nail polish paintings…

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

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Original Creations

Bloody Mary or More Doll Costuming by Jennifer Weigel

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So I came upon a Liv doll with no wig and decided to make her a mourning ensemble. The result was so reminiscent of this Bloody Mary music video based on the Lady Gaga song, by Ruben Samuel Cortez for his film school final (not the Wednesday TikTok remix, though that is also fun) that I simply had to share.

Costumed Liv doll to Bloody Mary by Jennifer Weigel
Costumed Liv doll to Bloody Mary by Jennifer Weigel

The outfit is made up of really fancy thick black lace leftover from a skirt I decorated for a party and an old translucent black handkerchief. It really reminds me of the table dancers in the music video but black instead of white (though it also alludes to some of the other outfits too, and Wednesday’s dress from the TikTok remake).

Close up of Bloody Mary doll's face
Close up of Bloody Mary doll’s face

I love the detail on the eyes on these Liv dolls, which are embedded and not painted on.

Closer still...
Closer still…

The Liv dolls’ eyes are just so lifelike. I think this is what attracts me to the Rainbow High dolls too, and why I had to turn the Makeover Failfix 2Dreami into Lady Amalthea of The Last Unicorn…

Failfix 2Dreami as Lady Amalthea from The Last Unicorn (not scary but one of my all time fave movies and I love how this doll turned out so I'm posting her here anyway)
Failfix 2Dreami as Lady Amalthea from The Last Unicorn (not scary but one of my all time fave movies and I love how this doll turned out so I’m posting her here anyway)

If you want to check out more of my altered dolls, I have posted several to Haunted MTL here:

Fashion Zombies

Heartbreak Hotel

Mummy Dearest

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Catharsis

Fairy Wands

She Wolf

Queen of Everything

More Altered Dolls

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Krampus

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

Oh and here’s a bonus photo of the skirt that I got the lace for originally, titled Kiss My A$$.

Portrait of the artist, dressed for a Blue Jeans and Bling party
Portrait of the artist, dressed for a Blue Jeans and Bling party

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