Why I Entombed My Marketing Witch, and Other Current Projects
I wish I could write about positive experiences, but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. I spent way too much money on a marketing consultant based on demonstrations of her mad skillz in witchcraft. Let's call her "Kathy V." She really is a talented illusionist. Kathy took me to Save-A-Lot and resurrected a chicken right inside the package in the meat department. It grew a head back on it, but the thing was still featherless and footless, so it had a hard time ripping its way out of the plastic wrap. You can imagine what kind of scene that created. We backed away as if we had nothing to do with it.

So anyhow, Kathy held a séance at her "office" in Parma, where she produced ectoplasmic manifestations of Lovecraft and Alexandre Dumas and Rafael Sabatini and Edward Bernays. I said, "You had me at Lovecraft." I didn't know who Edward Bernays was, but the other three looked convincing. Their reactions seemed real, because they weren't all: "Wooo, we are here to provide you with wisdom." Lovecraft screamed for two minutes and then cried the whole rest of the time. Dumas tried to comfort him. He yelled at us for disturbing them. Bernays and Sabatini kind of hung back and stared at their fingernails. (Stared through their fingernails?)

I guess it was smoke and mirrors in her office, or whatever the modern equivalents are. She must have had an accomplice at the Save-A-Lot who planted the live chicken under all those other packages. Come to think of it, that's pretty sick because they must have plucked a live chicken, cut off its feet and shrinkwrapped it.

So I engaged her services as a marketing consultant for Dungeons & Dayjobs. She made some more wild displays of witchcraft in her office, like summoning the ghost of Janis Joplin just to entertain us. Janis was all combative. After "Piece of My Heart," she refused to keep singing a cappella so finally Kathy hauled out a karaoke machine and the ghost sang over a few generic versions of her greatest hits. Oh and the other thing Kathy did, this wasn't even a good illusion, it was just so weird and intense that you figured she must be hardcore. Kathy set fire to her curtains. It stunk. The kind with rubbery white backing on one side to reflect the sunlight. Then she stood back while flames scorched her ceiling tiles, and finally she pulled them down with her bare hands and beat out the flames. I guess the magic was supposed to be that she didn't need to go to the hospital to have her burns treated. But her hands did look burned.

So what's Kathy's big marketing plan? She hired her burnout nephew Tommy to paint a billboard for me. They chose a sign about 50 feet high, above some trees on I-94, the one that says Christ Died For Your Sins. Not that the sign was 50 feet tall -- I mean you had to look above the treetops to see it about 50 feet off the ground. The sign was only about half the size of a sheet of plywood. The placement of it was outside the usual field of view as you're driving. I didn't expect a lot of highway travellers would see my book cover and buy a copy. But I have to admit, it was a good likeness of the cover photo.

Next day I start getting emails and phone calls from the church group. Kathy didn't buy the sign or rent it. She just had Tommy paint over it. I called her as soon as I found out. She said, "Controversy, man. This is going to end up in the paper. Even if they paint over the sign right away" (which they did) "you'll get lots of attention. Maybe it'll make tv news in Lansing. Haven't you ever heard the expression, 'There's no such thing as bad publicity'?"

That sounded cool for a minute. In the end, there was no tv coverage and nothing in the local paper. It turns out bad publicity is when you spend money on something and the decision-makers in your local media are disgusted enough or dignified enough not to be caught up in your stupid publicity stunt.

What else was on the marketing plan? Five hundred fluorescent yellow handbills, distributed at biker bars, the hot air balloon festival and Jackson's Juneteenth celebration.

I said, "What the hell does this have to do with Juneteenth?"

Kathy said, "There are a lot more African-American sci-fi and fantasy fans out there than you'd think. Have you ever heard of Octavia Butler?"

I said, "Yeah, she just passed away."

"No, I'm talking about the sci-fi author. She's only fifty something. She's not that old." Then Kathy explained how fluorescent yellow flyers always catch people's attention. I needed a marketing consultant for this?

As you can imagine, we had some disgreements over her fees as a marketing consultant. I discontinued her services and paid her the cost for printing handbills. I figure she can eat the cost of the paint or whatever for the billboard. It wasn't my fault she chose to paint it where she knew it would get removed.

Kathy put a curse on me, which translated to Tommy setting fire to my compost bin at about midnight. Luckily he tripped over a lawn flamingo. Then the neighbor's dog barked and growled at him. He got so scared, he couldn't see the latch to open the gate, so he pounded on the kitchen window asking for help. The compost bin wouldn't stay lit, so that part of it was good. But now we got this court date, so that's a pain. I hope Melinda doesn't try to sleep through it. Lord only knows what kind of "contempt of court" fines she'd rack up for failing to appear as a witness.

I went to Kathy's office before work and tried to nip it in the bud. I told her she could get arson conspiracy charges for putting him up to it. She blasted a fireball at me. I can't explain how she did that, but it was pretty slow moving so I stepped out of the way and it burned through the screen. She still hadn't replaced her curtains.

I'm pretty sure she does have some limited skills at witchcraft, because she's been trapped under a block of sidewalk up Cooper Street two months now, and when I go back to check, I can still hear her rattling around down there. They were doing construction and left a bulldozer on site with the sidewalk all torn up. I was able to dig a shallow hole where the sidewalk was gone, lay her in it and use the dozer to put a section of sidewalk back over top of her.

I don't think it's a "Tell-Tale Heart" situation where I'm hallucinating her scratching, because I'm totally not feeling guilty about it. And because last week when I stood at the bus stop across the street from that spot, I watched people walking over her section of the sidewalk. Some of them looked down or looked around at the houses when she hollered or knocked. I'm afraid a dog might start digging at the side of it, but it would probably take a long while to move enough dirt for her to escape.

Tommy wrote a nice thank-you note from the Juvie hall in Hamburg. Since his aunt Kathy has been entombed, she hasn't been able to maintain the curse that she used to control him. What kind of person would give their own nephew anal warts? That's low even for a witch.

Other projects I'm currently working on include a short story called "The Pangborn Stalemate" about a 1930s G-man's embarassing reaction after he finally unmasks The Dark Phantom, and a non-fiction piece inspired by Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz synchronicity: Queensryche over Disney in The Secret of NIMH: Mindcrime. I'm going to try to find as many terrifying coincidences as I can between Secret of NIMH and Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime. It's meant to show that you can take any good movie and any good album and manufacture extra meaning in them, like interpreting tea leaves or ink blots. In that vein, I'd also like to do DUMBO Side of the Moon and possibly Toby Keith's Shock'N Y'all/Triumph of the Will.


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