Corn Maze Chapter Seventeen

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle once again to introduce chapter seventeen of my story Corn Maze. This week the Maltese and I saw some nefarious animals lurking around outside. First was the rat occurrence. And we are not talking a cute little thing with a propensity for French cooking. No. This one was large, rotund, and terrifying. My novelist saw it three times and the third time she pounded on the window and the thing dashed away. The other unexpected visitor showed up early this morning.

It was big and scary. Very scary.

Hush, Tucker! I’m the one telling the story here.

Yes, but it was big and scary.

They get that! As my cohort said, it was big and scary. And it was dark outside, not quite dawn, and a bit of a distance away so my novelist couldn’t make it out even with a bright flashlight. But she suspected a bobcat as there have been bobcats around here in the past.

Bobcats are big and scary.

Go sit over there.

But…

Over there! Thank you. Now, the creature was big and scary and looked like it could be a bobcat, so my novelist whisked the Maltese and I back indoors. It got lighter outside but my novelist still couldn’t figure out what it was. But it was a bold creature and made it’s way closer to our living quarters. It’s eyes still glowing menacingly when my novelist raised her flashlight to meet its face. Finally, it jumped up on a nearby fence and my novelist was able to get a very good look at what we believe to be…a Dragon Li. If you have not heard of a Dragon Li, it’s a breed of house cat.

The big bad rat can say good-bye now.

Enough! You’ve ruined my story! Anyway, yes, we were glad to welcome the Dragon Li to our premises and hope to be rid of the rat. Anyway, here is chapter seventeen of Corn Maze. Nasoloditisya!

Corn Maze

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Chapter Seventeen

Farley knew his truck was at an angle. Not upside down but not fully upright either. Maybe in a ditch. Yep, he was in a ditch. He was in the ditch behind Nile’s restaurant. Well, that just sucked. He heard the rush of click-clacking heels running towards his ditch-bound truck.

“Farley!” Mallory called. “Farley! Are you okay?!”

“I tipped over,” Farley slurred when she crept down the bank and reached the driver’s side window. “I tipped over like a Holstein. Moo.”

“I’m calling a tow truck,” Mallory said taking her phone out of her bag and dialing.

“Wait, what?”

“Why did you drive off like that?”

“I don’t know…”

“Hello,” Mallory said into the phone. “Yes, my date drove his truck into a ditch…”

“Hang up,” Farley said. “They’ll give me a DUI.”

Mallory muted the phone. “They’re a tow truck company, not the police.”

“Hang up,” Farley said as he climbed out of the driver’s window and staggered out of the ditch.

“Yes,” Mallory said after unmuting the phone. “We’re at Nile’s…”

Farley grabbed the phone out of her hand and ended the call.

“Hey!” she exclaimed. “Give me back my phone!”

“Don’t call a tow truck.”

“How else are you going to get out of the ditch?”

“Lyle.”

“Who’s Lyle?”

Farley took his phone out of his jacket pocket and dialed. “Hey, Lyle,” he said. “Say, I’ve got a…a mishap here over at Nile’s and I was wondering if you could lend me a…yeah, I know it’s date night…yeah, I know it’s date night, but I could really use your help right now. Yeah…yeah…yeah…okay. Tell Patsy hello.”

Farley hung up the phone, turned to Mallory and said, “He’ll be right over.”

“Don’t you need to go to the hospital first?”

“No. I didn’t hit my head. I didn’t get whiplash. I didn’t break any bones. I just slowly drove into a ditch.”

“But…”

Just then a tall strong guy wearing a pair of gym shorts, a tank top and a lobster bib sauntered over to them. “Hey, Farley,” he said after wiping his mouth on the bib. “I was just having dinner with Patsy in there.”

“I know, dude,” Farley said. “But I drove my truck into a ditch.”

“You’ve been hitting the whiskey, haven’t you.”

“Yeah, well…”

“I’ll go get Bull.”

“Bull?” Mallory said.

“You’ll see,” Farley told her.

Mallory watched Lyle march around the corner of the building. Two minutes later she heard a loud roaring engine as Lyle drove his bright neon green monster truck up to Farley’s pickup.

“Holy cow!” Mallory said.

Lyle leaned his suntanned arm on the window and poked his head out. “Help me with the winch, Farley.”

“Okay,” Farley said.

Farley climbed back in the ditch, and helped Lyle hook the winch up to his pickup. Lyle marched over and jumped in his monster truck. He revved the engine a few times and dragged Farley’s truck out of the ditch.

“Wow,” Mallory said when Farley’s pickup was once again on terra firma. “That went a lot smoother than I thought it would.”

“Ain’t my first time at the rodeo ma’am. Not even my first rodeo with Farley…say, are you a reporter or something?”

“No.”

“You do know Farley’s engaged.”

“Yes, I know. I’m engaged too.”

“So, you are a reporter?”

“No.”

Lyle shot Farley a stern look. Then he pointed back and forth at them. “You aren’t on a date, are you?”

“Thanks for giving me a hand, Lyle,” Farley said taking a few bills out of his wallet and slapping them into Lyle’s palm. “Tell Patsy hello for me.”

Lyle strutted back into Nile’s Steak House as Farley turned to Mallory and said, “How does a movie sound?”

“I’m not going anywhere until you hand me the keys.”

“You’re no fun.”

“Hand them over.” Farley rolled his eyes and handed Mallory the keys. “Where’s the movie theatre and what’s playing?”

“There’s that new horror movie from…”

“Not a chance.”

“Yeah, okay. Well, I think there’s a new psychological thriller playing at the AMC theatre.”

“Where’s that?”

“Over by the mall.”

“Great. Let’s go.” Mallory hopped into the truck and Farley climbed into the passenger’s side. “Why did you get drunk anyway? If winning this contest was so important to you, why did you get drunk?”

Farley looked out the passenger’s side window. “I’m nervous.”

“About what?”

“How it’s all going to turn out.”

Mallory nodded. “Let’s go see the movie.”

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: BAD WORDS (2013)-Netflix

This sleeper was added to Netflix recently and it is a wicked, sly droll dark comedy written by Andrew Dodge and directed by Jason Bateman. Guy Trilby (fabulously played by Jason Bateman) is a smart, snarky acid tongued forty-year-old eighth-grade dropout come warranty information proofreader who, because he never finished the eighth grade is, by a loophole, allowed to compete in the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee. This revelation is much to the vexation of both the parents and those who run the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee. He has conscripted reporter Jenny Widgeon (Kathrine Hahn) a whack job in her own right to pay for his expenses in trade for his story. Trilby easily takes the win at the regional level and doggedly heads off to compete in the national competition. On the plane he meets fellow competitor 10-year-old Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand), a happy go-lucky kid who insists on befriending the acid-witted Trilby. Upon his arrival at nationals, he is called into the office of Dr. Bernice Deagan (Allison Janney) who spares no punches in telling him what a jerk she thinks he is and he in turn unleashes venomous verbal fire right back at her. His presence at the competition is met with continued distain from both the parents and the competition’s founder Dr. William Bowman (Philip Baker Hall).

There are some very funny laugh out loud moments in the film, and it remains sharp and witty throughout. Although I would have appreciated an even more vicious ending, the movie is well worth the watch.  

Corn Maze Chapter Sixteen

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here on my usual Thursday to present chapter sixteen of Corn Maze. By now you have probably witnessed as my novelist and I did, the Emmy Awards this past Monday. We were most disappointed in the way things went especially with Better Call Saul and Bob Odenkirk not taking home the prizes for superior work in their respective categories. We were also disappointed that Severance did not pick up a directing award for Ben Stiller’s outstanding effort. And we are even more devastated that neither show claimed a writing award. Both shows were the best written and by far the most interesting this past year especially Better Call Saul with its phenomenal landmark final season.

If you have not seen either of these two shows I urge you to do so. Better Call Saul can be streamed on Netflix and Severance is on Apple TV+. They are presently and genuinely the crem dela crem of television right now.

In our opinion, the best award of the night went to Michael Keaton for his outstanding performance in Dopesick, a must-see miniseries on Hulu. After his win and Jean Smart’s nod for HBO’s Hacks, everything went downhill sinking into a mire of mediocrity.

Yes, we know that Succession is a well-done show and basically a modern King Lear. But its major flaw has started to show in its third season being there is no Cordelia and for that matter no Fool either. Each of these characters represents the voice of morality and the voice of reason respectively in the classic story. The choice for the show to leave them out is by design of course, but the trick is losing its potency and the story arc has continued to fall into a never-ending loop of who gets thrown under the bus this year with no well thought out plan in sight. Yes, there are some truly great moments such as the one involving texting mishaps, but this is not enough to distract from its melting center and ever widening fissures. All shows written by Vince Gilligan on the other hand constantly move the story forward and are set on a strong trajectory. Because we believe Mr. Gilligan always ultimately knows where they are going and how they are going to end, he has yet to disappoint us.

Ted Lasso also suffered from a bit of a sophomore slump this time around. We like the show and honestly it has no real competition in the comedy arena right now except for Only Murders in the Building. But the first season’s storyline is stronger than the second and though we like the twist at the end of season two with the one character who had the most interesting arc, there was a good stretch of yawning in the middle. We think that if Only Murders in the Building does more with the Theo character, provides a much better villain than they had in season two (season one had a good solid villain), and continues to have more fantastic scenes like the glitter mishap it has the potential to outplay Ted.  

We have a love/hate relationship with Squid Game. We think it is intriguing and we understand the popularity and its ability to draw viewers in. We also think the characters are rather interesting to watch and although Bob Odenkirk lost to Lee Jung-jae there’s no doubt Lee Jung-jae does a great job on the show. That said, it is not designed to be excessively deep. Where shows like Severance or Better Call Saul or Saul’s predecessor Breaking Bad have more profound forays into the human psyche, this one plays a bit more on the surface. The constant killing, uber violence and relentless focus on games work to subtract from what could be a more profound story. In other words, Severance and Better Call Saul are for grownups. Squid Game is for adult children.

And with those thoughts, here is chapter sixteen of Corn Maze. Jouir!

Corn Maze

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Chapter 16

Harley sat on his porch swing staring down the road Farley and Mallory had driven off on. Darkness surrounded him and he found himself alone listening to crickets. Their chirping made an empty lonely sound. The sound of isolation.

He picked up his can of Farmstrong Ale and finished it off. Then he rose, headed inside the house, and ascended the stairs. He opened the door of his old bedroom, leaned on the doorframe, and assessed the neat and orderly space. His bed was made up with plain blue sheets and a navy comforter. On his desk sat a coffee mug filled with pens and pencils. A robot alarm clock stood beside it. On top of his dresser were a couple of small trophies with marble bases. He moved over to his closet and slid open the wooden door. At the back corner beneath where his varsity jacket hung, he’d stored most of his high school souvenirs in a large footlocker. Sitting beside the footlocker was his trumpet case. He sighed when he saw it. He hadn’t played for the last couple of years. And he missed it.

In high school he and Farley had been rivals fighting for the coveted spot of first chair. They had switched back and forth each claiming the seat until Farley finally won. Then Farley decided he didn’t want to be in band anymore and Harley took over. The odd thing was, after Farley left Harley excelled. And he kept excelling well past what he and his band teacher thought was his potential. He even ended up with a partial music scholarship and became a member of his university’s marching band. But towards the end of his sophomore year of college, his interest in music began to wane. At his parent’s urging he spent his time fully devoted to Botany. Then quietly without their knowledge, he turned back to his childhood passion of art and completed a double major. But he missed band and all the memories tied to it.

He picked up the trumpet case and set it on his bed. He flipped open the latches and raised the lid. He lifted the instrument out of the case and put in the mouthpiece. His fingers worked the valves. He put it up to his lips and played several sour notes. Then he pulled up his desk chair and sat down. After a few more attempts he played the opening to “Your Latest Trick” by Dire Straits.   

Valerie grew tired of her studies and headed upstairs to Farley’s bedroom. She stepped into the large master bathroom with the dark bachelor-like interior, drew a glass of water, and took a couple of aspirin from a pill case she had in her handbag. She swallowed the medicine then returned to the bedroom and lay down on his king size bed. 

As she stared up at the ceiling, she wondered how many mornings she would wake up and see the same stark white surface after she married Farley. Did prisoners think the same thing when they lay in their cells at night?

What were Farley and Mallory doing right now, she wondered. Were they still having dinner? Were they at the movie theatre? Were they…? Did she care? Did it matter? Does one bad night make all that much difference to a relationship?

What if she left and went home right now and packed her bags and skipped town. Even with most of her money under Farley’s control could she disappear and start again? She was still young. Time was on her side. A change of scenery was possible.

Valerie closed her eyes and was assessing her options when she heard music playing. At first, she thought it was a car radio, then realized wherever the music was coming from it was close by. She rolled off the bed and approached the window. Looking outside she thought she spotted someone below. Was it a burglar? Of all the nights they had to pick this one to rob Farley’s house! She rushed to the dresser grabbed her phone out of her bag, dialed 911 returned to the window…and stopped. Suddenly, she realized the burglar was the one playing the music. She put down her phone, slowly opened the window and leaned on the sill.

Under the porchlight, Harley stood playing his trumpet. He looked up and saw Valerie watching him. He stopped momentarily. Then after a beat he began playing “Valerie” by Steve Winwood. It had been a long time since he’d performed that piece. And even longer since Valerie had heard it. She listened with an intensity she rarely gave anything. Her heart flooded with a forgotten warmth.

She turned and burst out of the bedroom, sailed down the stairs and threw open the front door. She rushed to the edge of the porch and stopped, her toes teetering on the top of the steps.

Harley saw her and ceased playing. He stood frozen, his trumpet down in front of him as he looked at her. He opened and shut his mouth a couple of times hoping his breath would release the words his mind was crying. He lifted the trumpet to his lips, hesitated, then continued playing the song. Valerie leaned against the pillar. She felt as if something long ago lost had been found.  

Harley finished playing and put down his trumpet. He could see she was shivering, from the cold…or something else. He stepped towards her. “Val,” he said, his voice hoarse.

Valerie floated off the porch and stopped. The chirping crickets filled the silence between them. She could see desperation in his face. “Do you think we could untie our knots, Harley?”

Harley took another step towards her. “Oh, Val, I…”

And then she ran to him. She threw her arms around his neck, and he hugged her close. She smelled like the night air and strawberries. His lips melted into hers. She tasted like hope and relief and finally for a moment all was right with the world.

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: THE OLD MAN (2022)-FX & Hulu

One of the fun new shows this year is this well-cast thriller which bounces between the protagonist’s past and present. Based on the book of the same name by Thomas Perry it is the story of Dan Chase (Jeff Bridges) and young Dan Chase (Bill Heck), a widower retiree quietly living off the grid in upstate New York with his two large dogs. Dan occasionally chats on the phone with his twenty-something daughter who calls to check up on him. But as the show takes us in deeper, we find that Dan is anything but ordinary. He is former CIA and has a box of multiple driver’s licenses and large investments of cash in several different banks in several different locations.

After a home invasion, where Dan kills the perpetrator, he decides things have become too hot and he packs up his two dogs and heads out. He manages to land a living unit in a new location far away from his original home. The unit is rented out by a middle-aged woman named Zoe McDonald (Amy Brenneman). Zoe is personable and stable, and Dan takes a liking to her…or does he? The two go out on a date and romance starts to bloom until Zoe catches a glimpse of the darker side of Dan’s life and finds herself on the lamb with him.

Meanwhile, back at CIA headquarters, we meet grandfather and FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Harold Harper (John Lithgow) and young FBI agent Angela Adams (Alia Shawkat). When Harper finds out his two agents who tried to capture Dan were overthrown their target, we begin to find out Dan and Harper have a complicated past.

The show is a lot of fun and the acting from this unbelievably talented cast is great. The fight scenes are well choreographed, and the taunt pace of the story keeps you coming back for more. If you are looking for a new thriller series to watch, check this one out.

Corn Maze Chapter Fifteen

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here on my usual Thursday to introduce Chapter Fifteen of my story Corn Maze. It is almost movie season again and the Maltese and I were delighted to see the trailer for what we think could be a forerunner for best film of the year, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. I for one am a Weird Al fan and sat down and rewatched “Eat It” by Weird Al once again and marveled at his ingenuity. The Maltese is of course averse to such intellectual stimulation. As for me, I am embracing my curly poodle locks, have purchased a silk Hawaiian t-shirt from Tommy Bahama and have been listening to polka music. And with that thought here is Chapter 15 of Corn Maze.

Corn Maze

by

Gigi the Parti Poodle

Chapter Fifteen

Farley burst through the wooden doors of Nile’s Steak House and stumbled out into the parking lot with Mallory walking steadily beside him.

“You need to let me drive,” Mallory said.

“Don’t be stupid,” Farley slurred. “I can drive.”

“You’ve had eight shots of whiskey.”

“And they were all good.”

Mallory held out her hand. “Give me your keys or I will not get in the truck.”

“I like it when you’re…uh…bossy.”

“I’m not bossy.”

“Harley is whipped. He’s…he’s just whipped. Like a big old…creampuff!”

Mallory stopped at the truck, stuck her hand inside his jacket pocket, and pulled out his keys.

“Whoa!” Farley exclaimed trying to adjust his vision so he could examine the keys. “You’re like a magician or something!”

“Let’s go, Farley.”

“Why aren’t you drunk?”

“Because I sipped my whiskey. It’s a sipping whiskey so I sipped it.”

“How many shots did you have?”

“You should know. You paid the bill.”

“Bill, shmill. How many shots?”

“Two.”

Two?”

“I sipped two shots total, and you drank the others you ordered for me.”

“How many shots did I…did I order?” he asked weaving around.

“You ordered two to start with; two for me and two for you. Then you ordered three more rounds and drank all six shots by yourself.”

“Wow! I’m a…a whatchamacallit…a lightweight.”

Mallory marched around the truck and opened the passenger side door. “Get in.”

“No. No, no, no. This is my truck, sister, and I’m a driving it!”

“Get in, Farley.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Farley staggered around to the passenger side threw his arms up and collapsed face first on the front seat. “Wow, that was hard,” he said punctuating his statement with a voluminous belch.

“Farley, I can’t drive with your door open and your feet dragging along the asphalt.”

“I’m stuck,” he said in a muffled tone.

“No, you’re not.”

“Did we have dessert?”

“We had the pumpkin cheesecake.”

“Was it any good?”

“It was excellent.”

“I want a slice.”

“We already had dessert, Farley.”

“I want more cheesecake, woman!”

“Don’t yell.”

“Fine! Just…you know what? If you…if you get me another piece of cheesecake, I’ll climb all the way back into the truck.”

Mallory put her hands on her hips and tapped the toe of her strappy heel. “You’ll be a good boy, get in the passenger’s seat and wait for me to get back?”

“Yes. I’ll be a good…a very good boy.”

“Because if you don’t, I’m going to keep the cheesecake for myself.”

“No!”

“Yes. Give me your wallet so I can buy the cheesecake.”

“Women! All they want is to reach into your pocket and not in a good way.”

Farley reached behind his back and tried to retrieve his billfold. He finally located it, but his fumbling fingers struggled to pull it out. Mallory rolled her eyes and jammed her hand into his back pocket and snatched the wallet.

“Do that again,” Farley said.

“Stay right here.”

“You could pay for the cheesecake with your own money you know, and I could pay you back.”

“Not a chance,” Mallory said and turned and strutted towards the entrance as Farley sprawled on the passenger side seat like he’d just been rolled. Mallory looked at her watch. Yes, this should work.

Mallory opened the heavy wooden door with the askew N’s carved on the rectangular wooden door handle and emerged from Nile’s Steak House. Her evening bag dangled from her left wrist and in her right hand she carried a cardboard to-go box. She click-clacked her heels up to the stall where Farley’s truck was parked…to find it was empty.

Stunned she set the cardboard to-go box on a nearby car and checked her handbag for the keys. They were still there. She held up the keys to examine them and they were indeed the correct ones. She whipped around to survey the parking lot to see if she had somehow wandered into the wrong stall. She hadn’t. She walked up and down the rows of cars trying to locate Farley’s truck, pushing the key’s button hoping for a honk. But her efforts were to no avail. Farley and his pickup were gone.  

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: GET SMART WITH MONEY (2002)-Netflix

Now that most schools have gotten back in session, it is interesting to consider there are two subjects the education system is reluctant to teach, at least in the public schools. Oddly, both disciplines are lifelong skills that will protect you. Firstly, is self-defense. Secondly, is financial literacy. This documentary is about the latter. Now, if you are someone who has dabbled in the stock market for a while and are excellent at saving and growing money, you’re probably not going to learn much about finance or investing. But if you are in your teens and twenties and don’t know where to start with your money, or if you are older than that and are simply financially illiterate, then this one is for you. Either way this documentary is an engaging ride.

As of May 2022, according to US News and World Report, 64% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. And this can be at any income level. If you were to read Stop Acting Rich…And Start Living Like a Real Millionaire by Thomas J. Stanley, you would find that an average schoolteacher is more likely to have accumulated millionaire wealth than an average lawyer. Sounds counterintuitive perhaps, and yet it’s true. Sometimes, with certain individuals, the more money that comes in the more money that goes out. Even highly educated, successful individuals have a difficult time with this and feel it necessary to buy the latest car, the newest technology, the best house in the best neighborhood, the trendiest fashions (see Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline). Ego gets in the way. Ego is your financial enemy.

The documentary shows four different financial planners each working with one individual or couple to help them get their assets in order. Each one has a different set of obstacles. Sometimes it’s overspending, sometimes its not taking advantage of your talents, sometimes it’s organizing your budget, and sometimes it’s fear of money. Its fascinating watching the four subjects grow and change their lives over the course of a year and the documentary stays engaging and interesting throughout.

Corn Maze Chapter Fourteen

Good afternoon. It is Thursday once again, and I am Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce Chapter Fourteen of Corn Maze. This week has been remarkably dull. I have done nothing of interest whatsoever. Except of course write. That is always of interest. The Maltese has also been dull, but then he always is. The one worrisome thing that occurred was my novelist procured a water gun. Perhaps I attack the Maltese too often, but I see no reason to squirt water in my direction. It is rather shocking if you must know. I’m merrily going along growling at that insipid beast and shwap! My hair is suddenly violated with water! I hardly like to take a bath and here she is shwapping me with water! I do not care for this use of militant punishment. I must strategize a way to cease it. Until then, here is chapter fourteen of Corn Maze. Enjoy!   

Corn Maze

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Chapter Fourteen

Farley pulled into the spacious Nile’s Steakhouse parking lot and killed the engine. Mallory was surprised at how opulent the restaurant looked for being in a small farming community. Farley disembarked the truck, jogged around to the passenger’s side, and held his hand out for Mallory who, delighted by this gentlemanly behavior, took it. His gesture did not go unnoticed by other nearby patrons who had come to dine at Nile’s that night. Mallory felt like the belle of the ball as she hooked her arm in Farley’s and they strode towards the large wooden doors. She noted the slightly askew capitol letter “N” carved into each of the vertical rectangular wooden handles. It gave the place a certain class.

Kelly, an attractive woman in her mid-thirties, saw them approach the hostess station and her eyes briefly widened before settling into a pleasant professional gaze.

“Hello, Kelly,” Farley said leaning on the desk and winking. “We have reservations.”

“Of course,” Kelly replied. She looked through the bookings on her monitor. “Here you are.” She grabbed two faux leather-bound menus from her desk and said, “Follow me.”

Although the booths in the restaurants were private alcoves, Farley felt the eyes of their patrons upon his controversial date and himself. Small towns are like that. Everyone is connected to everyone whether they want to be or not. Tonight, he wanted to be connected.

“Here we are,” Kelly said placing the menus on the table and stepping aside so they could slide into the booth. “Dawn will be your server this evening.”

“Fantastic,” Farley said.

“Enjoy your meal.”

Kelly left and Farley perused the menu. “What would you like to drink?” he asked Mallory.

“Champagne,” she said.

“They have an excellent whiskey selection.”

“I’m not a whiskey drinker…anymore.”

“Ah, but you were, huh?”

“Well, in my college days you know.”

“Which were yesterday.”

“I’d still prefer champagne.”

Dawn, a petite college age woman sporting a classic brunette bob hairstyle stopped at their booth. As she placed the two glasses of water balanced on her tray in front of them, she said, “How are you doing this evening?”

“Great, Dawn,” Farley said grinning. “How are you?”

“Fine, thank you. May I bring you something to drink?”

“We’ll each have a shot of Compass Box Hedonism,” Farley said.

“But I wanted…” Mallory started to say.

“Two shots of Hedonism,” Dawn said. “This evening we have a fillet mignon kabob made with local tomatoes and California green peppers served on a bed of wild rice. Our special appetizer tonight is bacon wrapped scallops and our dessert is a lovely French pumpkin cheesecake made with local pumpkins.”

“Sounds fantastic,” Farley said. “We’ll have the kabobs and house salads. And we’ll start off with the scallops and a breadbasket.”

“What kind of dressing on the salads?”

“Shallot vinaigrette.”

“Excellent. I’ll be right back with your whiskey.”

Dawn left and Mallory said to Farley, “I wanted champagne.”

“Need I remind you I won the bet. I got through your fiancé’s corn maze before he got through mine. So, being as I won a date with you, I decide what we eat and what we drink.”

Mallory narrowed her eyes then smiled. “Okay,” she said pleasantly.

Farley threw his arm around the back of the booth. “So, what made you decide to say yes to this bet?”

“What made you decide to propose it?”

Farley grinned. “I asked first.”

“Being engaged doesn’t mean you’re married.”

“You have an open engagement?”

Mallory furrowed her brow and chuckled. “No.”

“Yet here we are.”

“The deal was to go on a date. Sex was never implied.”

“The night is young.”

“Here’s your whiskey,” Dawn said returning to the table. She set a shot in front of Mallory and one in front of Farley. “And your wholegrain breadbasket.”

“Thank you,” Mallory said as Dawn set the basket in the middle of the table.  

“You’re welcome. Enjoy.”

“Your turn,” Mallory said when Dawn left.

“Try a sip of the whiskey,” Farley said.

Mallory took a sip. “Wow! That’s smooth!”

“Isn’t it though?”

“You have excellent taste.”

Farley smirked. “I do, don’t I.”

“Your turn.”

Farley knocked back his whiskey. “Harley and I were best friends in high school.”

“Best friends don’t usually make bets to date each other’s girlfriends.”

“Not usually.”

“So, you’re not friends.”

“No, we’re friends. We’re friends who disagree.”

“Disagree about what?”

“Details.”

“Details?”

“You haven’t even tasted this breadbasket,” he said reaching over, taking a roll, and nudging it towards her. “It’s the best I’ve ever had.”

Mallory looked at the bread then back at Farley. She removed a slice and buttered it. “Details is a vague word.”

“You’re a smart girl. You know what details are.”

“Of course, I know what details are. I just don’t know what you and Farley’s details are.”

“So, you met Farley in college.”

“We lived in the same dorm.”

“What did you study when you weren’t studying Farley?”

“Public Relations.”

“What’s a girl with a Public Relations degree doing on a farm?”

“What’s a smart boy like you doing as a farmer?”

Dawn returned and placed the appetizer on the table. “Here are your bacon wrapped scallops.”

“Those look tasty,” Mallory said.

“We’ll have another round of Hedonism,” Farley told Dawn.

“But I’ve barely touched my…”

“I’ll be right back with your whiskey,” Dawn said and left.

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951)-HBO Max

Throughout the fifties and sixties Tennessee William’s plays were beautifully brought to the screen, often, though not always, in glorious black and white. This film is the gold standard. Rich with metaphor, poetry, and symbolism it would be difficult to find many writers today who could write a play or film at William’s level. Most modern screenwriters are just not that deeply connected to their stories. And even in the best of today’s work there are glaring flaws. Not here.

Blanche Dubois (brilliantly played by Oscar winner Vivian Leigh) is not just a character. She is the representation of the dying southern aristocracy as well as William’s sister Rose Isabel Williams. I will not tell you more or it will ruin the story. After losing both her affluent estate and her job as a schoolteacher, the fragile but intelligent Blanche desperately takes sanctuary in the lowly world of the French Quarter of New Orleans. Her sister Stella (also well played by Kim Hunter) is sturdier than Blanche but not nearly as intuitive. She has managed to marry Stanley Kowalski (brilliantly and terrifyingly played by Marlon Brando), a low-rent psychopath who is more of an animal than a human and the representation of the new American industrial world. Like all psychopaths, Stanley is keenly focused on money and constantly goes on about the Napoleonic Code which basically says that what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband. He sees what is left of the sisters’ fortune in the form of Blanche’s clothes and jewelry and aims to own it all…and more. Mitch (Karl Malden in a fantastic performance), Stanley’s friend, is more refined than Stanley or his other coworkers. He becomes smitten with Blanche who takes a shine to him as well, but outside pressures threaten to drive a wedge between them.  

Corn Maze Chapter Thirteen

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce chapter thirteen of Corn Maze. I have been most distressed this week as both my dog food and Aquadent are out of stock. My novelist has had to hunt down alternatives to take their place and they are just not the same. The whole affair has caused me to turn into something that is not my usual self. Without my proper dog food and breath freshener I am lost. You get used to a regular meal. You come to depend on premium fare. You expect it at the same time every day. Then suddenly it’s no longer available. I’m in near tears. I think I might just go mad. I cannot live on this subpar sustenance. When will my haute cuisine return? What shall I do? How shall I live?

You could eat my dog food.

Zip it, Tucker! You’d devour Alpo if it was fed to you!

Alpo is tasty.

Get out of here! Leave me to wallow in my misery, you heinous vermin. And with that, here is chapter thirteen of Corn Maze. Bon Appetit!

Corn Maze

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Chapter Thirteen

Valerie sat at Farley’s kitchen table staring at her textbooks. This was the worst time of the day. The late afternoon to early evening. The time of day when a horrible sense of dread set in, a strained hopeless mood that she couldn’t quite describe. And Farley capitalized on it. He’d insisted she come over. She’d consented.

“I need you to help me pick out what to wear,” Farley said marching into the kitchen.

“I never agreed to this bet,” Valerie said. “I’m not going to pick out anything for you.”

“But you didn’t stop it either, now did you?”

“As a matter of fact, I did.”

“Yeah, how?”

“I told Harley you were out to ruin his life and make a cuckold out of him.”

“Hard to make him into a cuckold seeing as he isn’t married. Come on.” Farley nodded his head towards the stairs. Valerie watched him for a moment and then reluctantly followed him up the steps to his bedroom. He walked over to his walk-in closet. He pulled out a black dress shirt and a midnight blue dress shirt and held them up for her to see. “Black or blue? Or are you feeling a little bit of both?”

“Doesn’t matter. Darkness becomes you.”

Farley took a step towards her. “See how well we play off each other? Two peas in the same pod. “You think Harley and Mallory are like us? Not a chance.”

“Go with the black shirt.”

He grinned and leaned in to kiss her, but she turned away from him. He scoffed. “Yeah, be like that. It’s not going to change anything.” He plopped down on his bed and pulled on his Tony Lama cowboy boots. “I’m going out on a proper date, and you can sit here and think about where I am and what I’m doing. Enjoy your studies. I know I’m going to enjoy mine.”

Farley skipped up the porch steps to Harley’s door. He wore the black dress shirt open at the neck and a matching pair of black jeans. He held a bouquet of flowers he’d bought at the supermarket and reeked of his best cologne.

Harley opened the door and glared at Farley.

“Hello Harley,” Farley said smugly adjusting his Stetson hat. “I’m here for my big date.”

“Get off my porch,” Harley said and pushed Farley backwards.

Farley stumbled and almost fell. He laughed and said, “Someone’s a sore loser.”

“Get out of here. The deal’s off.”

“Oh, no. This deal is sealed. Now, go tell your fiancé her date is here.”

“Here I am!”

Mallory danced up to the screen door. She wore a light orange dress with a low neckline and a high slit. Farley raised an eyebrow. “My, my,” he said. “Aren’t you a sight to behold?”

Mallory beamed. “Why thank you,” she said.

“Doesn’t seem like your fiancé has a problem with the situation,” Farley told Harley.

Harley advanced on Farley causing Farley to tumble backwards onto his ass. Before Farley could get up Harley lurched at him. Farley hopped to his feet and the two men circled each other.

“Stop it!” Mallory yelled stomping her strappy high heeled sandal.

“Can’t get out of it,” Farley told Harley. “Mallory agreed to the outcome of the bet.”

Valerie didn’t!” Harley growled.

“Doesn’t matter. She’s not the one going on the date.”

“Let it go, Harley!” Mallory said.

“You’re just going to let this creep take advantage of you?!” Harley said turning towards her.

“He’s not going to do anything I don’t want him to do.”

“You don’t know this guy! You don’t know what he’s capable of!”

Mallory looked at Farley and back at Harley. “I guess I’m going to find out,” she said and descended the porch steps.

Harley marched up to her blocking Farley. “Don’t go out with him.”

Mallory turned and looked at him. “You agreed to this bet too. And you lost.”

“Mallory…”

“We both agreed. Now, go back inside and stop beating up my date.”

“You heard the lady,” Farley said standing up and dusting himself off. “We’re leaving.”

Harley, his stomach tying into anxious knots, watched them walk away from him and hop into Farley’s black truck. Farley backed up the pickup and Harley lurched towards it then broke into a sprint as it sped off stirring up dust. He stood helplessly watching it barrel down the driveway until it was no longer visible.

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING (2021)-Hulu

One of the most enjoyable shows to watch these days is this wonderfully droll sharply written gem from Steve Martin and John Hoffman. All three of its leads are outstanding in their parts especially Martin Short who gets most of the funny lines. The show takes place in an upscale apartment building in New York City called The Arconia where Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin) a very private former television star lives and has no desire to commiserate with his fellow tenants. Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) is a successful effervescent Broadway director who is always up for a bit of fun and is dealing with his own demons namely his dwindling bank account and lack of work. Mabel Mora (Selina Gomez) is a broke twenty-something woman who is renovating and living in her aunt’s apartment. As the story begins Mabel’s childhood friend Tim Kono (Julian Cihi) also a tenant of the Arconia is murdered.

The murder binds these three strangers together who are all secretly fascinated by true crime. They team up to figure out who killed Tim and during their journey decide to start a podcast together. Joining them is quirky bassoonist Jan (Amy Ryan who is excellent in the role) who also lives in the building and shares their interest in the crime.

I will say the first season is superior to the second both because the plot is stronger and because the supporting characters are more vivid. Especially intriguing are Teddy Dimas (Nathan Lane) and his son Theo Dimas (James Caverly). Theo is around the same age as Mabel and has shared similar history with her in the building. Why they don’t have more scenes together is beyond me as the best two episodes of season two are episode six Performance View and episode seven Flipping the Pieces. The best episode from season one is episode seven The Boy From 6B which features Theo. Also, Detective Kreps (Michael Rappaport) is not used nearly enough in season two where some other characters are on the screen too long.

All in all, this is a very entertaining show, easy to binge, and well worthy of its seventeen Emmy nominations. And we get to see Steve Martin do some wonderful physical comedy which alone is well worth the watch.

Corn Maze Chapter Twelve

Good morning. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here once again on my usual Thursday to introduce chapter twelve of my story Corn Maze. My, but this has been a most eventful week. My novelist, the Maltese, and I all took a trip to the lake. We stayed at a marvelous little cottage on the water. It is a quiet and peaceful place where I can gather my thoughts and be creative. I got more work done than I thought I would. Though I did get a wild hare and charged at the Maltese to clear my mind and think better. My novelist did not take kindly to my outburst and relegated me to the corner where I was told to think about my actions. We took a lovely drive and looked at the landscape. I stole my novelist’s neck pillow and claimed it as my own. I cannot resist microbeads. They are soft and comfortable and conform perfectly to my slender form. My novelist even treated us to new dog snacks which I must say were a welcome adventure to my palate. They made my tastebuds zing. And I had the good fortune of meeting a Jerusalem Cricket and not getting bitten. But alas, all excursions must come to an end but not without reward. And I pass that reward on to you, dear reader. Here then is chapter twelve of Corn Maze. By the way, here is a picture of me at the cottage:

Here I am on my palace of pillows

Corn Maze

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Chapter Twelve

The crowd was huge. So huge in fact that people were selling tickets outside the makeshift gates for three times face value. Farley couldn’t believe how lucrative this had become. And he was thrilled. Thrilled like he’d been in high school when he and the rest of the football team took the field. The cheerleaders shaking their pompoms, the stands loaded with fans, everyone raring to see the big game. There was nothing like winning in front of witnesses.

Meanwhile, over at Farley’s corn maze entrance stood Harley. This just might be the worst day of his life he thought. Embarrassment and fear tangled inside of him. He felt certain everyone knew why he was here and what this bet was about. He felt Mallory’s cold smile sear his back. She wanted him to lose, and he knew it. In his heart he knew he shouldn’t have asked her to marry him. In his heart he knew Farley was right. He and Valerie had unfinished business.

Malory stood at the front of the crowd waiting for the race to begin. She wished she were standing in front of Harley’s corn maze cheering Farley on. She knew it would look bad rooting for Valerie’s fiancé instead of her own. But she had to be here to keep up appearances. And keep up appearances she would. Though deep in her heart she knew she was cheering for Farley and waiting for him to win.

Valerie stood in the front row at Harley’s corn maze. She knew Farley was going to cheat. He’d probably cheated already. Somehow, someway he’d figured out the fastest path through Harley’s maze. She didn’t know how or all the particulars, but she knew he knew. The question was what happened to her when he won.  

A triangle rang out over the loudspeakers.

“Alright, everyone!” Roy announced. He wore a white suit, matching cowboy hat and sterling silver turquoise bolo. “Welcome, welcome! My, don’t we have a fine turnout here today! I think this might be the biggest turnout I’ve ever seen at a corn maze event!” Roy stood on a large wooden platform on a trailer attached to the back of a semi-truck. Colorful green and white fabric decorations covered the front and off to the left-hand side stood large speakers and a state-of-the-art sound system. “As you can see, we’ve got a couple of gorgeous corn mazes here all cut and ready to go. They sure look pretty, don’t they? Don’t y’all think they look pretty?”

The crowd cheered.

Roy turned to the kid near the speakers. The kid was a local country boy dressed in a t-shirt and cargo shorts. “You’re going to need to get Floyd,” Roy told the kid.

Floyd?” the kid asked.

“Yes, Floyd.”

“Okay. I’ll get Floyd.”

The kid typed something on his laptop keyboard.

“Alright folks! Let’s get this race on the road! Farley! Harley! I want you to take your marks there at the front of your corn mazes. Judges, are they on their marks?”

The judge stationed at the entry point of Harley’s maze with Farley called back to the man on the truck who said into his phone, “Yes!” his response booming out over the speakers.

“Henry,” the man said to the judge stationed at the entry point of Farley’s maze by Harley, “is Harley on his mark?”

Henry called back to the man on the truck near him. “Yes!” the man said into his phone which also boomed out over the speakers.

“Well then, folks! It’s time to start this race. Whichever contestant gets through the other’s maze first wins the competition.” Roy covered his microphone and leaned down to the kid manning the speaker system and said, “Kid, did you get ahold of Floyd?”

“Yep,” the kid said. “Floyd’s ready.”

“Fantastic!” Then he said into the speaker. “Judges! Raise your pistols in the air! Farley and Harley,” get ready to run! On your marks…get set…Go!”

The moment he said, “Go!” the kid blasted “Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd over the loudspeakers. The crowd went crazy cheering and yelling for their favorite competitor.   

Harley’s hands sweat and his heart raced as he burst into the crackling stalks. The first urge he had was to get in deep enough so the crowd couldn’t see him. But he knew drones were flying overhead plastering him up on huge screens for the crowd. He pressed forwards, the loud rustling of the corn blaring in his ears.

Farley’s first urge when he entered the maze was to wave at the drones which he did. He heard the crowd cheer and he grinned. Yeah, he thought, old Harley can have an earful of that.

Harley heard the noise and figured Farley had riled up the crowd. But he let it slide. He had started to find his stride and picked up the pace. He was certain from studying Farley’s corn maze designs from years past at the library where all winning mazes were required to publish their blueprints, they all had similar patterns to them. And even though this was the most complex one Farley had ever designed; those same patterns were weaved into it. The question was could he figure out the patterns fast enough. There seemed to be a left, left, left, right scheme in each design. Almost like a trademark.

Farley had spent the past month studying the photos taken from Bud’s Piper. He knew Harley’s maze like the back of his hand now. He didn’t even need a map. The path was easy and clear. Well…not easy. Harley’s maze was surprisingly impressive. At least when he first glanced at it. Now it was child’s play. Like watching a movie over and over till nothing came as a surprise. He turned right, right, right, left. He paused here and there just to make it look good to the drones. Just to make it look like he was working. He could almost taste Mallory’s lips already. This was going to be fun.

Harley careened right racing through the stalks. His swift move led him to a wall of corn, and he stopped short. Then he whipped around, hurried backwards, and careened left and found the same thing. A horrid feeling of dread shot through him. He’d reached a dead end, and everyone was watching it via the drone hovering above his head. He stopped and listened to his breathing. How far would he have to go back to get out?

Mallory watched the big screen TV and saw Farley moving smoothly through her fiancé’s maze. Not perfectly mind you but smoothly…and expertly. His confidence intrigued her, and she could not wait until their date.

A crestfallen Valerie watched Harley on the big screen. It was like seeing a confused mouse trapped in a science experiment bumping into walls. Come on, Harley she thought. Come on…

Farley knew he’d made it to the center of Harley’s maze. The calm in the middle of the storm. There was a left curving pattern up ahead then a sharp right, an arrowhead to the right, a right forward to the left and then on to the final few turns before the exit. Piece of cake.

Harley banked a left corner backwards and found himself returning to the fork in Farley’s corn maze. Left, he thought. This time go left. He bent sinister and found himself back on track. He veered left, a sharp right, left again and then left again. Yes, he thought. That makes sense. Why hadn’t he seen that pattern before? Classic Farley.

On the big screen Mallory saw Harley catching up with Farley taking her by surprise. One minute Harley’s lost and now he’s gaining ground. This made her anxious. Maybe she shouldn’t have gone to Farley’s house last night. Maybe she’d underestimated Harley.

Valerie saw the same thing and her heart leapt. Maybe Harley would make good on his word after all. Maybe this time he really would win.

Farley knew he was approaching the end of the tunnel. He moved like a roadrunner through Harley’s maze now. He’d given his competitor enough time to keep from embarrassing himself. Now, it was time to move through the stalks like a low flying hawk closing in on its prey. Right, right, right, left, right, right, left. In his head the rhythm jingled in his ears.

Harley hit his stride whooshing through the stalks calling on the paths he’d learned in his head from studying Farley’s mazes at the library. Left, left, left, right, left, left, right.

Mallory bounced on the balls of her feet as she watched Farley gain speed. “Go!” she cried. “Go, go, go!”

Valerie wrang her hands as she watched the big screens. The two men were in the final stretch. Farley was almost at the exit of Harley’s maze, but Harley was gaining speed. “Faster,” she whispered. “Go faster…”

The rustling of the stalks filled the crowd’s ears as the two men closed in on the exits. The cheers were deafening. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!

“And their closing in on the finish!” Roy screamed over the sound system. “Here they come folks! Here they come!”

Farley could taste his escape like it was a fresh baked cherry pie. He turned a right corner and there it was! The light at the end of the tunnel. He kicked into gear and…

Harley took another left, another left, another right, and then…there it was! There it…!

The howling crowd raised their noise up ten more decibels as the winner came bursting through the stalks.

“There he is!” Roy yelled. “There’s our winner!”

The crowd charged towards the winner who threw his arms into the air and bounded around.

Valerie’s mouth dropped in disbelief astonished at what she was witnessing. This couldn’t be happening. This could not be happening.

Mallory dropped her jaw and screamed louder than she’d ever screamed before.

Trapped inside the stalks the loser fell to his knees, the smell of dirt filling his nostrils. Right at the end he’d taken the wrong turn and run into a wall of corn. He bowed his head and hid his face as he listened to the cheers from the crowd outside as the drone buzzed around above him. He’d won he thought. Once again Farley had won.

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: LICORICE PIZZA (2021)-Amazon Prime

I recommend this week’s movie with a touch of caution as it is not for all audiences. Not because it is explicit which it is not, but because it is a bit on the unusual side as far as its storytelling structure goes. This is the film debut for both it’s stars Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymore Hoffman who acted in many of Anderson’s films), and they have fantastic chemistry here. Paul Thomas Anderson said he came up with the idea when he saw a middle school boy nagging a school photographer. He took the concept and spun the genesis with autobiographical stories told to him by his friend Gary Goetzman whose life entailed many of the events that occur in the film.

Set in the early 1970’s in the San Fernando Valley Alanna Kane (Alana Haim), a young woman in her early mid-twenties finds herself bored and working as a school photographer’s assistant. While doing a gig at a high school she is hit on by Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman), a sophomore who takes an instant shine to her. Gary, who is quite the hustler, convinces Alanna to join him for dinner. She agrees but because the age difference between them makes it clear that this is a friendship only situation. However, their friendship begins to blossom, and they find themselves involved in many escapades together like her chaperoning him so he can take an airplane to do a press tour for a play he was in with a famous actress (based on Lucille Ball), buying a waterbed store, dealing with aging Hollywood stars Jack Holden based on William Holden (Sean Penn) and Rex Blau based on director Mark Robson (Tom Waits) and crazed film director Jon Peters based on Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper).

The film remains entertaining but is more of a slice of life story than a plot so if plot is what you’re looking for here you aren’t really going to find it. It is more of an exploration of two young people who are not really suited for each other finding out they suit each other remarkably well as they live their lives in a somewhat sleazy somewhat magical California.

Corn Maze Chapter Eleven

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here once again on a summer Thursday to introduce the eleventh chapter of my story Corn Maze. This week my novelist and I came across a Stacker article called the 100 Best Films of All Time According to Data. Here were their criteria:

“To explore the 100 best films of all time, Stacker analyzed IMDb ratings and Metascores to create a unique score equally weighting the two. Only English-language movies released in the U.S. were considered for the list. Additionally, each movie needed at least 20,000 votes on IMDb, and if the movie didn’t have a Metascore, it was not included.”-Stacker

Sadly, we found only sixty films on the list we thought solidly worthy of the honor of best films of all time. This made us concerned that perhaps American movie watchers may not be viewing a large enough collection of quality work. And this is despite their enormous access to streaming content. We decided, therefore, to find and comprise a list of eighty-five English-language films released in the U.S. of all of which we believe were as good and, in most cases, better than the forty that did make the list. And on that sad note, here is chapter eleven of Corn Maze, and here is our list of eighty-five stellar films that failed to make the cut:

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Fargo

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Lawrence of Arabia

Rocky

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Patton

A Place in the Sun

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

High Noon

A Clockwork Orange

Midnight Cowboy

Precious

Jaws

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The Graduate

Doctor Zhivago

It Happened One Night

The African Queen

Flight of the Phoenix (original)

The Sound of Music

West Side Story (original)

Full Metal Jacket

Sunset Boulevard

In the Heat of the Night

The Hustler

Dog Day Afternoon

The Terminator

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Harold and Maude

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

To Kill a Mockingbird

From Here to Eternity

Unforgiven

Memento

Dances With Wolves

Bonnie and Clyde

The Deer Hunter

Giant

Shane

American Graffiti

The Third Man

Rebel Without a Cause

Leaving Las Vegas

2001: A Space Odyssey

Ben-Hur

Dances with Wolves

Spartacus

Easy Rider

Rebecca

The Defiant Ones

Deliverance

All the President’s Men

They Shoot Horses Don’t They?

Tootsie

Forest Gump

Five Easy Pieces

The Conversation

Witness

Good Will Hunting

Hoosiers

Stalag 17

Paper Moon

Strangers on a Train

The Usual Suspects

My Man Godfry

Marty

Mississippi Burning

The Magnificent Ambersons

The Third Man

Blue Velvet

Zodiac

A History of Violence

The Royal Tenenbaums

Lost in Translation

Raging Bull

An American in Paris

Blade Runner

Sling Blade

Laura

The Shop Around the Corner

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Easy Rider

Sideways

Corn Maze

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Chapter Eleven

The night before the competition, Mallory skipped up the steps to Farley’s porch and knocked on the door. When she didn’t get a response, she knocked again. And when she still didn’t get a response, she knocked a third time.

Finally, Farley shuffled around the corner in his green flip flops as he wrapped his black terrycloth robe around himself. He yawned as he tied the belt and stepped up to the door. He opened it and looked through the screen. Upon finding Mallory there a large, crooked grin stretched across his face. He stepped out onto the porch and said, “Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in.”

“I wanted to talk to you before the race tomorrow,” Mallory said.

“Why, surely. Talk.”

“I’d like to go over the ramifications of the bet.”

“Oh, I think we went over the ramifications of the bet a while ago, Mallory.”

“You and I both know you’re going to win.”

“And how do you come to that conclusion?”

“Your maze is better than Harley’s.”

“Shouldn’t you be rooting for your fiancé?”

Mallory smiled wryly. “Aren’t you the slightest bit curious why I agreed to this contest?”

Farley yawned. “Maybe.”

“Because men like you get what they deserve.”

Farley leaned against the doorway and folded his arms. “Do they now?”

“They do indeed. And you were right. I was flirting with you when I first arrived here and asked for directions.”

“My impression from the dinner party was you’re not keen on going out with me.”

“What was I supposed to say with my fiancé sitting right there? How would that have looked if I hadn’t put up a fight?”

“You have a point.”

“I want you to know I’m going to make sure our date is a night you’ll never forget.”

Farley laughed. “And what does Harley think of that?”

“Probably the same thing you think about Harley winning. If he could win that is.”

Farley pushed off the door frame, took a step into her and said, “So, how long have you known old Harley?”

“Almost two years.”

“When did he ask you to marry him?”

“Oh, he didn’t ask me. I told him I wanted a ring.”

“When was that?”

“Right before we moved here.”

“You went out for two years and he never asked you to marry him?”

“What difference does it make who asks whom? Point is we’re engaged.”

Farley held his hand out and gestured towards hers. “May I?”

Mallory smiled coyly and extended her left hand. Farley took it and studied the engagement ring. “My, that is a small diamond.”

Mallory pulled her hand away. “I love it. Harley picked it out.”

“I’ll bet he did. I’ll bet there wasn’t a smaller one to be found.”

“It’s not the size it’s the quality,” Mallory said tersely.

“Maybe it’s both.”

“Valerie doesn’t seem impressed.”

“And why do you say that?”

“Well, she doesn’t live here, now does she.”

Farley crossed his arms. “She will.”

“Under the circumstances I find it peculiar you’d propose such an odd competition. One might think you’re desperate.”

“Desperate for what?”

“Valerie.”

Farley narrowed his eyes. “It’s late. You should go home to your fiancé. We’ve both got a big day tomorrow.”

“Like I said, when you win, I’ll make it a night you’ll never forget.”

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: THIRTEEN LIVES (2022)-Amazon Prime

Prime Video has just released a fantastic new film. Fueled by a stellar cast and superb direction by veteran Ron Howard this fact-based tension filled story is an absolute must see.

One afternoon after their junior football/soccer match a group of twelve boys decide to go spelunking in the Tham Luang caves before attending the birthday party of one of the boys. Their young coach tells them he will go along to keep them safe. But an unexpected turn in the weather changes everything as monsoon season decides to come early… and fast. Soon the boys’ parents are wondering why they haven’t come home from the party and quickly a rescue party is formed at the park.

World class British cave divers Richard Stanton (Viggo Mortenson) and John Volanthen (Colin Farrell) are called to assist the Navy Seals in locating and rescuing the boys and their coach. But upon discovering their location is a brutal and treacherous 7-8 hour swim a rescue seems bleak. That is until Stanton comes up with the unconventional idea of adding to the crew Richard “Harry” Harris (Joel Edgerton) an Australian cave diver with an unusual skill.

The claustrophobic underwater scenes shot by cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom are outstanding. And his work, as well as Ron Howard’s should (hopefully) be remembered come Oscar season.  

Corn Maze Chapter Ten

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here on my usual Thursday to introduce chapter ten of my story Corn Maze. Today the Maltese and I…

My name is Tucker, and I am a Maltese.

…know that many of you out there are getting ready to head back to school. And this week we want to talk about school clothes. Granted, an odd subject for our blog but one we’d like to discuss just the same.

Tell them about the fibers. Tell them about the fibers…

Yes, yes. Well, because our novelist studied drama as one of her majors, she was required to take costume classes. What they do or at least did teach was fabrics and yarns are usually better quality and often more comfortable if they are natural as opposed to synthetic.

I like natural things. I like them very, very much.

Yes. Well, the best fibers to wear are primarily natural ones. These include:

Alpaca, Angora, Bamboo, Camel Hair, Cashmere, Cotton, Hemp, Lamb’s Wool, Linen, Llama, Mohair, and Silk

Processed products include:

Acrylic, Microfiber, Nylon, Polyester, Polypropylene, PVC, and Spandex

Semi-synthetic fibers include:

Acetate, Artificial Silk, Rayon (Viscose) and Tencel

The clothing brand does not matter as much as the quality of the fiber. In other words, don’t buy the label, buy the quality of fiber instead. And although sometimes it is necessary to use synthetic fibers for work clothes, exercising, sports, etc., generally it is better and more comfortable to wear natural fibers. Also, the expertise of the design and the skill of the seamstress or seamster is important as well. Here is a wonderful article by Diane Von Furstenberg on the subject. Also, we’d just like to add that we are not big fans of fast fashion.

No, we are not fans of fast food or fast fashion.

Fast fashion is cheaply made, low quality clothing that is not designed to last, priced low to lure you in, and is often found in stores such as Forever21, H&M, Hot Topic, Old Navy, Target, Topshop, Uniqlo, Urban Outfitters, Walmart, and Zara among others. We know the prices are tempting but we would humbly suggest primarily purchasing quality natural fiber clothes at reasonable sale prices. And to be picky, stay within your budget, get what you really like and not buy something because of a label. You should be happy with your clothes, and they should last you a lot longer than one season.

I am picky. I am very, very picky.

If you would like to read more about this topic, we suggest the book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline. And with that, here is Chapter Ten of Corn Maze. Nasoloditisya!

Corn Maze

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Harley entered the Tulip Valley Café and found Valerie studying at her usual table. He observed the way the emerald-green shaded light shone on her hair. Pat hurried to the hostess station and said, “Hello, Harley. Your usual again today?”

“Uh…I’m here to see Valerie,” Harley said nervously.

Pat looked over at Valerie’s booth and back at him. “Oh,” she said bemused. “Do you need a menu?”

“Yes, please.”

Harley took off his John Deer baseball hat and fiddled with it in his hands. Pat grabbed a plastic covered menu from the wooden slot affixed to the desk and led Harley to Valerie’s table.

“Looks like you’ve got company,” Pat told Valerie.

“What?” Valerie said and looked up from her studies to find Harley standing beside Pat. “Harley, what are you…?”

“I thought we could have breakfast together.”

Valerie’s eyes widened. “I…yes, of course.”

“I remember when you two used to come in here together and order fountain drinks when you were in high school,” Pat said, a lilt in her voice.

“That was a long time ago,” Valerie said.

“Not that long,” Harley said quietly.

“Care for some coffee, Harley?” Pat asked.

“Please.”

“I’ll get Poppy to bring you some.”

“Thank you kindly.”

“Of course,” she said, setting Harley’s menu in front of him before she left.

“Why did you agree to this corn maze catastrophe?” Valerie asked Harley.

Harley shifted his eyes to his nervous hands. “You know why.”

“Harley…that ship has sailed.”

“That ship never left the harbor.”

“What about Mallory? What’s her opinion?”

“Good morning, Harley,” Poppy said siding up to the table. She turned over Harley’s mug and filled it with a freshly brewed pot of coffee.

“Thank you, Poppy.”

“You are welcome. Are you ready to order?”

“I haven’t gotten a chance to look at the menu.”

“The eggs Benedict is awesome. And the biscuits and gravy are popular.”

“Sounds fantastic, but I think I’ll have a stack of toast with that fresh baked bread you get from the local bakery.”

“White, wheat, rye, or whole grain?”

“Better make it whole grain. I need the nutrition. And a scrambled egg too please.”

“You’ve got it.”

Poppy left and Harley poured cream into his coffee. “Ever since that dinner,” he said quietly as he tore open a packet of raw sugar, “I’ve been thinking maybe this contest isn’t such a bad idea after all.”

“Farley’s trying to ruin your life,” Valerie said.

“Interesting choice of words.”

“Don’t be naïve, Harley.”

“What makes you think I am?”

“You know he’s out to ruin your relationship with Mallory. Win or lose either way he comes out on top.”

“You sure of that, Val?”

Valerie anxiously tapped her fingers on the sides of her coffee cup. “Aren’t you?”

“Do you remember that sterling silver chain you used to wear around your neck? The one with the silver strawberry charm on it?”

“Yes.”

“And we came in here one day, sat down in the booth and you suddenly realized you’d lost it.”

“I was very upset about it.”

“And do you remember when we left, I found it lying outside on the sidewalk.”

“Yes, I remember.”

“And the chain had somehow gotten this big knot in it, and I thought you were going to explode because you loved that necklace so much. But you didn’t. You stayed calm. And we came back inside and sat down at the same booth because Pat let us, and you started working the knot out with your little pink polished fingernails. And I sat across from you and watched as you loosened it one loop at a time until finally the knot was gone, and it was the way it was before. That’s what this is, Valerie.”

“What do you mean, Harley?”

“Things are in knots and I’m going to untie them.”

Valerie reached out her hand and touched his for a moment before she pulled away. “Aren’t you concerned you might make bigger knots?”

“What are you going to do if I lose?”

“I didn’t agree to this contest, Harley. But you can be sure if you lose your fiancé will go to bed with my fiancé.”

“And if I win?”

“You won’t win.”

“If I win?”

Valerie took a sip of her coffee and sighed.

“Here’s your toast and scrambled egg, doll,” Poppy said cheerily as she set Harley’s plate in front of him. “Can I get you two anything else?”

“This looks great,” Harley said.

“More coffee?”

“Please.”

Poppy topped off Harley’s cup. “More for you, Valerie?” she asked.

“No, thank you, Poppy,” Valerie said. “I need to get going.”

“I’ll just leave your check here.”

“Thank you,” Valerie said and reached into her purse.

“You didn’t answer my question, Val,” Harley said snatching the check, pulling out his credit card and handing it to Poppy.

“Thank you,” Poppy said and left to charge his card.

“Wait!” Valerie called after her. She turned to Harley and said, “I don’t want you paying my bill.”

“Too late.”

“Fine,” she said and started gathering up her studies. “I don’t have an answer for you, Harley because you’re not going to win.”

“We’ll see.”

Valerie shook head and climbed out of the booth. “You’re going to lose, Harley, and I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said and left.

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: VICTORIA’S SECRET: ANGELS AND DEMONS (2022)- Hulu  

After watching this three-part documentary, I know I will never look at Victoria’s Secret the same way again…and I don’t mean that in a good way. This is a fascinating study about a company that started out brilliantly and became more and more corrupt as time went on. The establishment was originally founded by Roy Raymond and his wife Gaye who, in 1977 decided to start a lingerie store that was classy instead of sleezy.

Roy founded his first business at the tender age of 13 which produced wedding invitations. He graduated from Tufts University and received his MBA from Stanford University. He and his wife founded Victoria’s Secret on the idea that it was embarrassing for men to purchase lingerie for their wives at department stores. They decided to create something elegant. Victoria was a tip of the hat to the Victorian era suggesting sophistication and the Secret was the underclothing the women wore at the time. This one-of-a-kind concept garnered success and they opened three stores in San Francisco and a very successful mail order catalogue. We shall call Roy and his wife Gaye angels.

In 1980 along comes Les Wexler who, upon seeing the distinctiveness of the store wanted to acquire it. Raymond said of Wexler, “When I met him, it was as if I’d met the devil.” Sadly, Raymond was right and most unfortunately sold the company to Les Wexler in 1982 for a measly one million dollars. Raymond and Gaye, after having a son and daughter together, divorced in 1990. On August 26, 1993, after suffering serious business failures, Raymond took his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. We shall call Les Wexler a demon.

Instead of focusing on male clientele Wexler decided to focus on female clientele. And at first there was “some truth” him doing this. But ultimately Victoria’s Secret’s upper crust was dominated by men as opposed to a balance of a man and woman running it together like it was originally. And Les had an affinity for picking the slimiest excrement at the bottom of the dirtiest garbage can to assist him and enlisted both misogynist psychopath Ed Razek as his chief marketing officer and none other than infamous pedophile Jeffery Epstein to assist him with his financial affairs. We shall call Ed Razek and Jeffery Epstein demons as if that needs to be pointed out.

The documentary goes on to chronicle how the company, with the help of these three fallen angels went from floating on clouds to diving into a netherworld inferno. They engaged in all sorts of wrong from airbrushing its models to appear thinner than they really were, to creating the PINK brand to sexualize underage girls. From being one of the first American clothing companies to send its manufacturing overseas for cheap labor to allowing Epstein to lure and lock an underage girl in his mansion (which he lived in next to Wexler’s) where he and Ghislaine Maxwell repeatedly raped her over a weekend of utter debauchery. After watching this documentary, you may think twice before ever shopping at this and the other L brand establishments again.  

Corn Maze Chapter Nine

Good afternoon. It is Thursday once again and I Gigi the parti poodle am here to introduce chapter nine of my story Corn Maze. This week has been hot. Dare I say sweltering. My novelist thought it would be a good idea to go for a walk in the late afternoon. I assure you this was a mistake. I panted most of the way and I could not stop panting once we returned home. My novelist gave me water, put me in a cooling vest which is too big for me, and stuck me in the bedroom which is the coolest place in our home. She herself did not fare well from the heat and learned a valuable lesson: walk your dogs in the early morning. And so, we fixed that little faux pas, and we are both the better for it. As you probably guessed, being from the northwest, I am a huge Fraiser fan, and the show is apparently getting a reboot. I came across this video, which is not, I repeat NOT the trailer for the new reboot but it is rather amusing just the same so I thought I would share it with you. Now here is chapter nine of Corn Maze. Nasoloditisya!

Corn Maze

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Chapter Nine

“Let me get this straight, boys,” the head of the corn maze committee said. “You two want to do a race to see which one can get through the other’s corn maze first.”

“That’s right,” Farley said.

“And you want this dog and pony show to be a part of this year’s annual corn maze competition.”

“Right again.”

“And you think this should be a paid competition. In other words, you want us to sell tickets to this hootenanny.”

“With all the proceeds going to help fund next year’s corn maze festival,” Harley said.

“Well, that’s mighty philanthropic of you two.”

“We’re dedicated to putting money back into the community,” Farley said.

“That’s mighty kind of you boys. But Farley, I can’t remember you ever being philanthropic. In fact, I can’t remember you ever being at a single money raiser your entire life.”

“I’ve grown up a bit, Roy.”

“Uh, huh,” Roy said looking from Farley to Harley and back again. “If I remember correctly, you boys had a falling out in high school.”

“That’s right,” Harley said. “We did.”

“As I recall it wasn’t a small thing. In fact, it was the talk of the town.”

“I suppose it was.”

“And from what I recollect, Harley, you left. Saw you a couple of times during summer break and maybe Christmas and that was about it. So, I’m a bit perplexed about you wanting to put money back into the community and all.”

“I grew up here. It’s home.”

Roy grabbed the baseball off its stand, propped his feet up on his desk and tossed the ball from hand to hand. “I’m going to have to think on this one. I’m not saying no, mind you, but I do have to think on it.”

“We appreciate it, Roy,” Farley said. “Thanks for seeing Harley and me today. We know you’re a busy man.”

“Thank you kindly, Farley. Harley, it’s good to have you back in town. The committee and I will look over your proposal and we’ll have an answer for you boys by the end of the week.”

Farley and Harley left the office and headed down the hall. “What if the committee turns this cock and bull idea down?” Harley said.

“They won’t,” Farley replied. “I give the committee too much support for them to turn us down.”

“Why doesn’t Valerie want to marry you?”

Farley’s face turned red. “That’s a bold question!”

“Just trying to make conversation.”

“Are you going to marry Mallory?”

“I’m planning to.”

“After I bang her that is.”

Harley grabbed Farley by the collar and threw him up against the wall.

“You think that’s smart, Harley?” Farley said as Harley breathed in his face. “Starting a fight right here in the courthouse over your beloved fiancé’s honor?”

“You’re a reptile,” Harley said seething. “You always have been, and you always will be.”

“At least I’m not engaged to one woman and pining for another.”

“Valerie has no business being your fiancé and we both know it.”

“You sure of that, Harley? Because I didn’t force her to take my ring and say yes.”

“No, but she was thinking “what choice do I have?””

“A better choice than marrying a loser like you.”

Harley shoved Farley back. “I’m not losing to you anymore, Farley. This time, I’m going to win.”

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: PARIS, TEXAS (1984)-HBO Max

Winner of the 1984 Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival as well as the BAFTA for best director Wim Wenders, this Indi masterpiece still holds up great today. The film has a stellar cast with Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, Aurore Clement, Hunter Carson, and a stunning Nastassja Kinski. Written by Sam Shephard it is one of the most outstanding reconstructionist pieces from the 1980’s.

Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) wanders through the Texas desert. We don’t know how he got there or why. He traipses into a rickety establishment wearing demolished shoes and passes out from heat and exhaustion. After being tended to by a small-town doctor his brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) who lives in Los Angeles and works in the billboard business receives a phone call and heads out to Texas to retrieve Travis. But by the time he arrives, he finds out his brother wandered out that morning. Walt pays the doctor bill and finally hunts Travis down by the side of the road to find him tattered and mute.

Walt drives the two of them back to the airport where they board a plane, but Travis disembarks and refuses to fly. The two brothers continue back to Los Angeles via rental car, the exact same rental car they were in originally and arrive at Walt’s home where Walt’s wife Anne and Travis’s young son Hunter (Hunter Carson) live. Slowly Travis begins to acclimate back into the land of the living and weaves together a plan to find his estranged wife Jane (Nastassja Kinski).

Corn Maze Chapter Eight

Good afternoon. It is Thursday once again and I Gigi the parti poodle am here to introduce chapter eight of my story Corn Maze. This week the Maltese and I got a double whammy. First, we were both taken into the groomers. That alone is terrifying.

It is scary. Very, very scary.

As you can see Tucker the dratted Maltese is here to assist me.

Yes, I am. I like assisting on stories.

We both came out looking beautiful as always. I of course was the more beautiful. And then the next day our novelist left for a couple of days.

That means we were left with…Him.

Yes, him. Him is our guardian when our novelist abandons us and goes away somewhere. And then we are left with…Him.

Him doesn’t give us very many treats. And we are not allowed to beg at the table.

It is most dreadful. Most dreadful indeed. I am unable to be finicky about what food is prepared. I am forced to eat my designer dog food. I become ravenous. My stomach grumbles, my heart is lonely, and I sit in front of the door for hours waiting for our novelist to come home.

I sit at the door too…when Gigi lets me.

Yes, well. In front of the door is prime real estate especially when we stay with…Him.

Him is kind, though. He lets us sit on the couch and we sleep on comfy cushions.

That is true, but the moment I see my novelist again I burst into frantic jubilation.

Yes, she always returns. We are glad when she returns. Very, very glad.

And once again our world is in balance with me in charge and running things. That is how it should be. And now here is chapter eight of Corn Maze. Nasoloditisya!

Corn Maze

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Harley stood outside on his porch overlooking his corn maze. What a different design this was from his original helicopter concept. He put his hands on his hips and allowed the wonder of his work to soak in. He surveyed his notepad and the complexity of his design. A bug snuck up under the short sleeve of his t-shirt. He batted it away and scratched his shoulder. Gazing over the twisty-turn of stalks he decided to find out what he was made of. He folded his copy of blueprints, stuck it in his back pocket and proceeded forwards.

He knew he couldn’t practice navigating Farley’s maze, but he could navigate his own. He’d never really walked through corn maze routes much. He’d designed them for his parent’s sake not his own. But now it was crucial for him to understand the craft.

He moseyed down the steps and over to the maze’s entry point. Something about this year’s design felt ominous and uninviting. It was like looking at some menacing piece of art. Maybe something from an old horror movie.

He gazed at the hard dirt path. He was surprised how daunting the first steps inside the stalks were. It did not take him long before he met his first sharp turn. Within the next few yards, he came to a fork in the road. He could go right or bend sinister. He curved right and found the path inversed. He curved left. The ground was still soft, but he knew in time it would become hard and flat. He turned right, made an abrupt left and a quick right. The stalks rustled like paper. He found himself forced to make a sharp left, a quick right, another sharp left. He should have started his timer, he thought. Farley had probably memorized his own mazes for years.

Harley saw the path ahead was about to circle and he bent sinister. A small field mouse bounded in front of him then scurried away. That was concerning. What if visitors ran into mice? Another sharp left. He turned and looked behind him. Nothing but corn stalks and dirt. Another sharp right. Then Harley reached a second fork in the road. This time he had more trouble determining if right or left was better. How was he going to beat Farley going this slow? He had miles to go before he reached the exit. 

It occurred to Harley the ground might be a tip off to Farley as to which path to turn on and what to avoid if he could deduct something from footprints. Especially since Farley was a hunter and had become a good tracker. Harley continued through the stalks occasionally resorting to the blueprints in his pocket. He came to the third fork in the road and struggled with deciding whether to turn right or left. He turned left. The choice reminded him of a carnival ride taking hairpin turns through a haunted house. An abrupt right, then left, then right again. He’d made so many turns he was becoming confused. His map provided less and less help. Claustrophobia set in. The warm day had turned warmer.

He grabbed the hem of his t-shirt and wiped his sweaty forehead wishing he’d brought a bandana. He closed his eyes breathed deep and kept trudging. Then he stepped on something. At first, he thought it was a bottle cap. He looked at the circular object shining in the dirt. He reached down and grabbed it. He squinted as he scrutinized the thing not certain of what he was looking at. Maybe walking around in this corn maze was causing his mind to play tricks. He turned it over in his hand and gently removed the filth with his thumb. Then, as if it were a rare gem, he slipped it into the front pocket of his jeans.

Harley found his second wind and proceeded forwards. Right turn, right turn, left turn left turn. He heard something and looked up. There in the sky was a Piper that must have taken off from the small airfield on the other side of the freeway. For a moment Harley watched the green plane putter through the blue sky. Then he continued forwards.

Valerie entered Farley’s study, sat in the chair across from his desk, and faced her fiancé. Farley sat perusing the aerial pictures taken of Harley’s corn maze from the Piper. Bud the pilot was a crazy kind of guy. The type who always wore his shirts unbuttoned exposing more skin than most folks cared to see. He always had a big thick silver chain around his neck and one around his wrist and sported wild curly bleached blonde hair that left folks guessing if it was natural or permed.

“I’m not going to do it,” Valerie said.

“You’re not going to do what?” Farley said without looking up.

“Participate in this stupid game.”

“Oh.”

“Well?”

“Well, what?”

“When are you going to put a stop to this corn maze contest?”

Farley chuckled. “I’m not.”

“I refuse to be the prize.”

“Right before you came traipsing in here, I just finished taking your name off all my credit cards. And about a week ago I took your name off all my bank accounts.”

“I have a bank account of my own.”

“Yeah, I know. I liquidated all the funds you had in that one into my account and took your name off it.”

“You can’t do that.”

“Yeah, well, I just did.”

“You’re insane.”

“That may be but I’m insane with money.”

“Don’t think I can’t leave you, Farley.”

“The only family you can go to is your sister’s. And we all know how well the two of you get along. All you’ve got left is that diamond ring on your finger and that diamond is marked. See they etch information into those little darlings so they can’t get stolen and sold. But you could try. You can always try.”

Valerie’s face went ashen.

“So, you see,” Farley continued. “Once again I thought of everything.”

“Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t.”

“Was there anything else on your mind?”

“Yes. You’re going to lose.”

Farley didn’t chuckle this time. He guffawed. “Well, if that don’t beat the band, girl! Good luck with that! And by the way, I could use a sandwich. All this banking works up an appetite. I’ve been hankering for a Monte Christo all day. With strawberry jam. Don’t forget the side of strawberry jam, Val. Can’t have a Monte Christo without a side of strawberry jam.”

MY BOOKS

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: CONVERSATIONS WITH A KILLER: THE JOHN WAYNE GACY TAPES (2022)-Netflix

This three-part documentary is not for the faint of heart but is well worth the watch. Directed by Jon Berlinger who is known for his superb films Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (which is engrossing even if you are not a fan of the group) the movie expertly jumps around in time to help capture the super psychopathic mind of one of the worst American serial killers to have ever lived. A super psychopath is someone (if American) who scores over 34 out of 40 on the PCL-R. Ted Bundy, for example, scored 39 out of 40.

Psychopaths have certain traits and the one you will notice the best with Gacy/Pogo the Clown is how he starts out a sentence rationally and then devolves it into menacing evil. One example is Gacy talking about moving the body of a boy from his bed he has brutally murdered so he can go to sleep. Also chilling, is the thorough testimony of a terrorized victim and how he survived a harrowing night in Gacy’s house.

Like other psychopaths, Gacy was exceedingly arrogant, had an above average IQ (118) and HSS (VNTR 2R allele of MAOA also known as the “warrior gene”) which manifested itself in his hazardous driving habits. And of course, Gacy’s cavalier manner of manipulation. All these traits were passed down from his father’s side and his father, from what we find out about him in the film was psychopathic as well.

Psychopaths are pathological liars and Gacy was outstanding in this capacity. When you watch the film keep that in mind. You are not dealing with a normal person. You are dealing with a mind that is missing 21% of gray matter in the prefrontal lobe and about 10% of gray matter in the paralimbic system. The latter involves the amygdala which is where the most intense memories for human beings are stored. Gacy’s amygdala was like an empty vault. Memories meant nothing to him. He lived in the now. That is a large part of what makes the film fascinating.

Some critics have complained about how Gacy spews out whatever he wants to say and doesn’t answer the interviewer’s questions. Well, of course he does whatever he wants because that’s what he does. I don’t know what they thought they were going to hear on the tapes because getting a confession from him is absurd and thinking he’s going to show emotion or regret is ridiculous. What the film does is invites the audience into the mind of a predatory animal. The purpose of this is so they can understand how a real monster thinks which is in no way shape or form normal.

Gacy was born a genetically brain damaged monster. He had no humanity whatsoever. If you are looking for motivation you aren’t going to find it. If you are looking for a reason for his actions, there isn’t one. He doesn’t have feelings other than irritation and rage. He’s primarily indifferent. He doesn’t care what he did to his victims. He just wanted to rape and kill them. Humans have reasons for their motivations. Predatory animals do not. They have instinct. Period. Reason for them does not exist. They are just laser sharp at picking out a mark and killing it.