Thursday, May 24, 2012


                “Do you read me? Over.”

                “Loud and clear. Over.”

                She put her finger back on the message 
button, pressed it down and said, “What are you 
doing? Over.” She lay back on the bed, staring at 
the white ceiling, listening to the static against her 
ear, until the plastic talked again.

                “Not much. Over.” From inside the 
red house next door, her friend’s voice was 
traveling through the magic of walkie-talkies.

                Beulah held the machine back to her 
mouth. “We should do something. I’m going to 
pretend my bed is a boat. Over.” She sat up and 
stared out the window facing the ocean. The gray 
waves rolled out for thousands of miles towards 
Japan, a long way for the mattress to row.

                “I can see you out my window,” the 
voice in the toy said. “Over.”

                There was her neighbor, framed in 
Beulah’s other window, waving to her from another 

                Beulah chopped up and down on the 
bed, springing back and forth, letting the invisible 
waves get really bad before she picked up the 
walkie-talkie again. “The storm’s hitting,” she 
warned. “Over.”

                A loud pirate voice crunched out of 
the little speaker, “What are you doing?” It hollered, 
“Get off this channel!”

                “Why should I?”  Beulah snapped and 
crouched, waiting for the reply.

                It didn’t take long. “Listen, Buckethead. 
Shut up!”

                “You shut up!” Beulah’s friend 
challenged, “Buckethead!”

                Beulah bounced and joined in, “You 
stupid Buckethead!”

                His answer was garbled with curses. 
From somewhere far out at sea he swore through 
their children yells. They were both laughing, 
cursing back at him, unleashing their vocabularies 
and inventing new words to get him.

                Beulah stared at the sea.

                Then the music began to play, spinning 
out of her walkie-talkie.

                Her feet started tingling, Beulah felt 
the sound filling her up inside like poured in water. 
The window facing the Pacific flew open and the 
drapes blew out like leaves disappearing fast 
across the ocean. She clawed at her walkie-talkie 
but couldn’t turn it off. The music got louder and 
louder, even with it jammed under the pillow. 
Screaming didn’t stop it either. The sound 
danced inside of her, freezing, rattling her bones, 
crawling tremors.

                Just like balloons, her feet rose off 
the covers, lifting her legs up. The blankets were 
dragging loose. She pinched the edge of the 
mattress, doing a headstand, struggling to hold 
onto the headboard. Her body tied itself in knots 
around the metal spokes, fighting the musical 

                Looking over her shoulder, Beulah 
could see the frothing ocean, waves like hands 
pulling a line to her. And through all the loud, 
she could hear something else.

                With terrible kicking and shouting, 
Beulah’s friend levitated out of the red house, 
over the lawn, the picket fence and steep 
blackberried cliff and sailed out of sight.

                A mouth closing, the window shut 
slowly and all the hungry pull gave way to 
quietness as the music stopped, returning 
the room to stillness.

                Beulah fell back onto the softness, 
shot a hand under the pillow and smashed the 
walkie-talkie into pieces all over the wooden 


Annotated Buckethead:
This story was written in 1993
and appeared in my magazine
It was inspired by a real life
episode in Maine when 
my cousin and I tuned into 
a lobster boat with our walkie-talkies.
For the past year I've been compiling 
a book of short stories, already 250 pages,
hopefully a publisher will soon appear.
(My friend Aaron Gunderson 
drew the scary title page tough, 
sad to say I made the cowboy cover,
1993 was a rough year.)

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