Sunday, March 20, 2011
Welcome Author James L. Hatch
Stranger than Fiction?
Is truth stranger than fiction? The older I get the more I believe it is. That’s why I carry a small recorder to document actual events whenever I can. My books are fiction, but filled with outrageous real events. I’ve included four examples below.
The 200-word contest entry below, for the worst vacation ever, documents my brother’s trip to the Netherlands. This story will be included in a future book, probably The Training Bra.
Leaving the US shortly after 9/11, we suppressed our guilt for looking forward to a long-planned bike/barge trip through the Netherlands. Sharon, our tour guide, and my sister, Grace, were long-time friends, but on the first day Sharon suffered a stroke, crashed her bike, and was hospitalized. The following day, Grace fell and shattered her ankle. I ensured her belongings were protected, left her in the hospital with Sharon, and continued on tour. Unfortunately, Sharon died the next day, and Grace ended up in the indigent ward because I kept her ID and cash. Upstream barges weren’t aware of hospital delays, and a 40-mile power ride was required to catch up. The next day it poured, bike trips were canceled, and the channels rose high enough to prevent barges from passing under bridges. Worse, only Sharon knew our follow-on connections between the Netherlands and Paris, so our trip to Paris was canceled, and we ended our tour early – nearly missing our return flight when Amsterdam traffic was shut down by a bicycle race. We made our plane by the tiniest margin, with Grace grimacing in pain in the wheelchair as we pushed for a distant taxi bouncing over cobblestone streets.
Can it get any worse? Actually, yes. The following excerpt from Infinity Quest happened at a hotel in San Antonio. The hotel was evacuated, ceilings did cave in, it cost $5,000 to replace the dress and the law suits are not yet settled.
We move to a second gigantic room, stroll several aisles, and then infuse the glyph of a randomly selected individual, a young woman deeply in love and dreaming of marriage. She’s in a hotel the night before her photo shoot. Her mood is festive; friends and family surround her. Her wedding gown arrives, a beautiful iridescent gold dress that refracts a rainbow of colors throughout the room.
Everyone fawns over the dress as she removes it from its clear plastic cover and hangs it on a nearby hanger, but the hanger isn’t what it seems—it’s a fire suppressant sprinkler head. The head breaks under the weight of the dress and an oily liquid gushes from the open pipe, covering the dress and the young woman with sticky dark slime. She screams and dives toward the dress, but before she can react further sprinklers throughout the building erupt with brown slime in response to lowered pressure in the fire control system.
Reeking brown liquid rains down and begins reacting with air, gradually filling the room with oily foam. Pandemonium sets in. Screaming people try to run, but slip on the foam and disappear into the deepening froth. The hotel manager can’t locate the shut-off valve; the retardant foam level continues to rise.
Before everyone can escape, the floor gives way under the weight of the oily slime and the young woman free-falls into the darkness below, clutching her ruined wedding dress to her breasts, screaming in horror and watching friends and relatives follow her into the abyss. Her dream scream jars her from her nightmare, and she gasps deeply as she wakes terrified in a cold sweat.”
Still another adventure happened when some friends thought a ten-mile hike along Costa Rica’s jungle coast would be fun, but it nearly cost them their lives. The excerpt below from Kill Zone documents part of the story. Fortunately, our friends were saved by a ranger who braved the jungle at night.
“The tide inched in. By the time they reached the escarpment, which was much larger and farther away than it had seemed earlier, large waves skimmed over the flat rocks at the base of the cliff and crashed into its vertical surface. They paused at the edge of the foaming runoff to study the behavior and timing of the incoming breakers, assessing the odds of a successful passage. Oh my God, Marcy thought, it’s a giant game of Frogger!
Calvin shook his head in an obvious display of non-confidence. “We need to get on with this, Lady, if we’re gonna do it. Tide’s gettin’ higher every minute. We go now, or we wait six hours. It’s your choice.”
The flat rock at the base of the cliff varied from forty-feet to one-hundred-feet wide and spanned a distance of a quarter-mile to a half-mile around the cliff’s face. In ancient times, a huge section of rock broke from the face of the cliff and slid straight down into the sea, and the flat rock that once was the mesa-like surface above now formed a beautiful but dangerous path from one side to the other.
Marcy answered with an all-out sprint, running in zigzag pattern along the flat rock, avoiding huge boulders strewn across the expanse by the last great storm and fighting to retain footing on the slippery kelp. She leapt to the nearest solid surface to grab hold of whatever she could as each successive wave rolled in and crashed beneath her. With each outflow, she dropped down to run again, visually searching the way ahead for a safe handhold in preparation for the next wave that’d try to drag her into the Gulf.
Half way around the point she heard Calvin yell over the roar of the breakers, “Big one’s comin’ in!” just in time to sprint to a rock outcropping ten-feet ahead and get a death grip on a small escarpment jutting from the cliffs vertical surface. The wave hit her hard, shoving her into the lava, tearing at her clothes and trying to pull her into the sea. She clung to the rock with knees bleeding, and began to projectile vomit.
“No time for that, Lady, get your ass moving!” Just behind her Calvin prodded her on.
She choked back acrid spit, and yelled back, “Fucking shots!” as she dropped into a full sprint once again. By the time they reached the far end of the rocks they were soaked, bleeding and exhausted. Behind them the passage had become impassable, but before them a peaceful sandy beach curved gently for a short distance before disappearing completely into the dense jungle foliage.
Marcy’s breathing just returned to normal when Calvin spoke. “Gets tough from here, Lady.” He carefully surveyed the seemingly impassable wall of green foliage ahead, looking for a way in. “We’ll need to find an animal path to get through this.”
By now Calvin’s two-hour walking estimate had turned to four, but he remained confident they were almost there. He casually walked to the edge of the jungle, pulled back some greenery and immediately let out a blood-curdling scream. The jungle slammed shut before him as he stumbled backward, holding his face. Marcy was stunned. “Calvin…Calvin! What’s wrong?” Her eyes darted over his hands, searching the spaces between his fingers for damage she knew must be there.
I personally witnessed my final example, and I can only say I was breathless with laughter when the actual events unfolded. The excerpt below, told from Lucifer’s POV, is from The Substitute.
Lilith hid her face even more than usual by the time the main act began and Sylvia soon entered with all the fanfare expected for royalty. Lights dimmed, drums rolled and trumpets blared as the band gave her a flamboyant welcome. She bowed, the band fell silent, and everyone cheered and hooted as she removed her upper clothing to reveal a small monkey tucked between her large, round breasts. The beast acted relieved to get some fresh air and quickly jumped to its stool, looking far more demonic than it had on the poster outside. I should have heeded the warning in its malicious look.
As the act progressed, the monkey did a few tricks, things a monkey would ordinarily do in the wild, but a current of antagonism seemed to be developing between Sylvia and the beast. We concluded she didn’t let the monkey do anything special except look progressively more evil because she didn’t want to be upstaged.
Sylvia told relatively inane jokes, getting only a few polite snickers from the audience, especially from those who’d been drinking the longest, and from Waldo, who seemed to enjoy Sylvia’s jiggle even more than her humor. I simply couldn’t let the moment pass, especially with my finely honed sense of wit being fully lubricated.
Therefore, whatever Sylvia said to get a few snickers, I added a biting comment of my own to get a huge laugh at her expense, not noticing Lilith began crouching lower in her chair with each playful repartee and Sylvia became more rattled and angry after each exchange. I am, after all, not responsible for their feelings, but only my own and, frankly, I felt pretty damn good.
After only a short time, patience apparently not being a virtue on the surface any more than it is in my home and in apparent desperation, Sylvia invited me onto the stage, a position at the center of attention I am well accustomed to assuming. Being fully fuddled, I eagerly obliged and immediately offered a joke of my own when I reached the microphone. The crowd loved the great punch line, but Lilith looked pale!
Before I could tend to her, however, Sylvia gently took the microphone and, as if part of the act, led me to a straight-backed chair, sat me down, rubbed the back of my head with her ample breasts, gagged me, and hogtied me to the chair’s back. Truly, I did not expect such foreplay and I could easily see both delight and envy in Waldo’s eyes!
Needless to say, being bound intrigued and excited me, but in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have been so cavalier because Sylvia then walked to the front of the chair and gave my head and face a big hug with her generous breasts spilling out around my ears. The crowd hooted loud approval as she calmly returned to the microphone to tell her jokes without interference from me, as if nothing whatsoever had happened.
The monkey looked blankly at me and I looked back at the monkey, and it dawned on me we served the same purpose—to look cute. I felt like Miss Havana herself had put me in my place. Shit! For a moment, I considered revealing my true power, but quickly decide smiting her publicly would draw too much attention. It could also spoil Lilith’s birthday. I can torment this bitch a thousand times worse than anything she can do to me when she arrives in my kingdom as she surely will.
Muffled noises from beneath my gag brought forth incredible laughter from the crowd. To a person, they believed Sylvia had won our duel of wits—even Lilith! Or had she? Not to be upstaged and dismissed without a fight, I began bouncing the chair around, trying to chase Sylvia with short little jumps. The crowd loved that even more. I had outdone her once again.
But Sylvia would not be overshadowed easily. From a massive bag of tricks she kept behind the stage curtain, she retrieved a bucket loaded with confetti and threw it toward the crowd like water. The lurch back and surprised laughter from the audience grew to a higher pitch. The deviant monkey watched expectantly as Sylvia inverted the bucket over my head so I couldn’t see where she stood. Again, she tried to tell her jokes, but I could still hear her and continued bouncing the chair in the direction of her voice. The duel of wits ratcheted up a notch. Although gagged, blindfolded by the pail, and bound to the chair, my humor ran rampant.
Only later did Waldo tell me what happened next, but apparently the bitch would not concede. Instead, she belted down a shot of bourbon and fumbled in her Miss Havana-like oversized bag until she found a small yellow can. Holding the Ronsonol high for all to see, she took a bow and proceeded to pour lighter fluid inside the rim on the bottom of the bucket—and then set it afire.
My muffled screams from within the rapidly heating bucket could barely be heard over the roar of laughter and hoots from the crowd. I flailed in the chair with great urgency as the flames licked the low ceiling over the stage with such fury that even Waldo began checking for the nearest fire exit. The crowd appeared unfazed, however, apparently convinced enough beer existed in the room to put out any resultant blaze.
My mood changed as fast as the temperature inside that damn bucket. I lurched forward wildly enough to throw the burning thing off my head where it bounced along the stage floor, leaving patches of burning liquid until it rolled to the raised wooden edge and came to a stop. Sylvia calmly reached for a small fire extinguisher behind the stage curtain, put out the burning residue, removed my gag, and exchanged one expletive after another with me, causing the crowd to go crazy. With each exchange of insults and profanity, the ante raised and the frenzied crowd cheered each of us with gusto and toasted each barb.
Before a winner could be declared by acclamation, however, the sadomasochistic monkey, not to be upstaged by anyone, jumped off its stool and sprinted directly toward me. Deftly leaping to my shoulder, it pulled its furry little body to my head and humped my left ear with extreme vigor. In my restrained condition, I couldn’t do anything except glare sternly at Waldo and Lilith, a clear message for them to intervene, but tears flowed down their faces and they laughed too hard to notice. I thought to myself, This bastard is mine forever.
The noise, cheering, and laughter reached a new high as I thrashed in the chair trying to rid myself of the amorous beast. In a desperate attempt to free myself, I tipped the chair over onto the stage, causing the horny bastard to jump back initially, but the evil thing moved quickly to the other side of my head and had his way with my right ear.
I struggled even harder against the ropes and frantic rhythmic undulations of the monkey, eventually freeing one arm. With a single swoop, I collected the damn thing and threw it into the audience where it bounded from table to table, spilling drinks as it scurried across the slippery tabletops. The audience stood and cheered loudly as it thrashed across the room like a wave at a football game. The more they cheered, the more excited the monkey became. Soon the entire crowd stood and applauded, while yelling, “Encore! Encore! Encore!”
Yes, real events can trump imagination. I would love to hear from any of you who have had outrageous experiences such as the examples above, events so sad or so incredibly funny that they should end up in a book.
Thank you all for reading. My novels, The Judge, Infinity Quest, The Empress of Tridon and Aftermath Horizon are available from xoxopublishing.com in PDF format. Some are also listed on Amazon.com in Kindle format.
James L. Hatch